Abandoned Penthouse Casino – The Haludovo Palace Hotel – Bikini, Optional
Scantily clad Penthouse Magazine “Pets” deliver Pina Colada’s and casually spin Roulette wheels. Even with punters being surrounded ten-deep by soft-porn models, happy endings at the Penthouse Adriatic Club casino always come down to the luck of the draw. Housed in the Haludovo Palace Hotel on the Croatian island of Krk (please, somebody buy a vowel), the hotel/casino/hotbed of 1970’s awesomeness was the brainchild of Bob Guccione – owner of Penthouse Magazine worldwide.
Opening its lavish doors during the thick years of Josip Bros Tito’s Yugoslavia, at a cost of 45 million dollars – in 1972, dollars were worth a lot more than they are these days – the Haludovo Hotel had a fittingly rock star ending. One year after opening, the opulent Casino complex by the seaside was declared Bankrupt in 1973. Bikini’s were packed into suitcases, chips were cashed in, and the Pets went home. 1970’s Yugoslavia? Hell yes.
After more than a year on continuously the road, it’s fair to say I spend a lot of time in hotels. However, this is not 1972 Yugoslavia, where men wore mustaches, Mexican inspired salsa music was rocketing up the charts, and brand new brutalist concrete apartment blocks were gleaming, not decaying. This is 2013 Croatia, and as you can see from the photos, the Haludovo Palace Hotel may be fit for photographers with a bent for urban exploration – but it’s not exactly the glamorous destination it was in Bob’s days.
These days, the Haludovo sits as stark evidence that “Communist” Yugoslavia, ruled over by “Dictator” Tito, is perhaps not exactly what you thought it was. Even though the term “Iron Curtain” was coined in these parts, it’s very clear that allowing an American businessman to set up a hotel/casino so that local and foreign gamblers could throw money around whilst being waited on by Penthouse Pets is an indicator that perhaps Yugoslavia was not as communist as you may have been led to believe. And that Tito was not exactly the dictator with the heaviest fists.
Then, as now, misconceptions and misunderstandings about the former Yugoslavia filled the minds of Western citizens. Perhaps more people should have paid attention to Penthouse Magazine, the bastion and final word on all things political (I only read it for the articles), when the June 1972 edition described Haludovo as “richly located on the idyllic island of Krk, a few miles south of Trieste and directly opposite Venice, this mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground for summer and winter seasons alike.”
Every day, Lobster, Caviar, and Champagne was consumed like it was going out of style. Because, it was. There was a problem. Despite the architecture being “a gracefully colonnaded construction within whose elegant interior is the Great Lounge, bedecked with hanging gardens, pools and fountains”, and that the casino was promised to compete “with the finest casinos in Las Vegas and other principal gambling centers”, the Casino component, known as the “Anglo-American Penthouse Casino”, was unfortunately restricted only to foreign gamblers. And foreigners didn’t exactly flock to Yugoslavian casino’s in 1972. With such a huge expense in construction and ongoing costs, it was soon apparent that the hotel was bleeding money, hand over <ahem> iron fist. This is one Casino where the house didn’t always win.
But that wasn’t the end of the Haludovo. For the next twenty years, the hotel resort was operated as a worker-run enterprise, with the Penthouse king pin breaking all ties. Right up until 1990, the hotel was profitable. And then that most Yugoslavian of beasts – war – meant that the tourists well and truly dried up. During the years of war, parts of the complex were used as a refugee camp, and the downfall of the Haludovo continued to gain momentum. Ironically, it was the brutal process of “communist” Yugoslavia transforming into capitalist Croatia, that bought about the end of Bob’s palace. These days, the hotel has changed owners a few times, with the current owners seemingly not phased that an icon of mid-century architectural grandeur continues to devolve into abandoned decay.
click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article
Still, you’ve got to hand it to Bob Guccione (RIP). Although a natural assumption may be that the American uber-capitalist was interested in nothing but money and perfectly shaped women, keep in mind this quote:
“There are still false ideas about Yugoslavia as a country behind the “Iron Curtain,” as a country in which a businessman or someone looking for entertainment would find nothing. The Penthouse, too, faces many prejudices, doubts and a lack of understanding. We are called non-serious exhibitionists and pornographers, incapable of and disinterested in any serious business. I think that all this is, above all, a result of ignorance. Even the cold war itself is a consequence of ignorance. In order to defeat ignorance it is necessary to develop communications between people. In this connection tourism is certainly one of the most powerful forms of communication. Through the realization of this project, the Penthouse Adriatic on Krk, we have the opportunity to start a big process of re-education: we have become partners in removing doubts and ignorance.”
So, I wouldn’t go as far as calling Mr Guccione a humanitarian, but he did seem to get a kick from doing his part to educate the rest of the world about what Yugoslavia was really like.
Bob knew, but I don’t. Without having lived through 1972 Yugoslavia, I don’t feel 100% justified in being 100% certain of what it was like.
But having visited the rapidly decaying ruins of the modernist masterpiece that is the Haludovo Palace Hotel, I can be absolutely certain of one thing about Yugoslavia.
It wasn’t what you think it was.
And it wasn’t what I thought it was.
PS, I’m currently in the eye-of-the-storm of a European road trip. I’ve driven 2900km’s so far – from the Netherlands, to Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania. Twelve countries in nine days. I will write about the journey so far, soon. At the end of next week I’ll be heading to a secret destination, not outlined in my initial plans.
39 thoughts on “Abandoned Penthouse Casino – The Haludovo Palace Hotel – Bikini, Optional”
Are you maybe heading to Moldova during this trip? (I have a feeling this might be the secret destination;)) If you do – there’s an abandoned circus in Chisinau that I’m sure you’d love! In case you’re going let me know and I’ll try to find out some details where to find it, a friend of mine has recently visited it and it looks pretty impressive!
Hmmm… let’s just say you should get those details to me ;)
ha! ;) now I’m really looking forward to reading (and seeing!) all about your trip there! http://architectuul.com/architecture/chisinau-circus here you have some details with the location. I could see my friend was inside so it’s definitely possible to explore it better
Thanks Kami! PS, I will be heading to Moldova next week, but that’s not the “secret” destination ;)
Also, just had a look at the link…wow…that’s a must-see!
I guess that would be the country that formally does not exist but is a part of Moldova ;) am I even close ;) ?
I take it as a “yes” ;)
haha – you’re dangerous!
This is pretty amazing… I think I may need to go dig around the internet to find some 1970s Penthouse now and see this baby in its former glory.
Looking forward to a maybe now not-so-secret location.
Hey Polly – I think the June 1972 issue is the one. I would love to see some higher-res original photos, I couldn’t find many on the internet. And yes, thanks to Kami, the secret is out ;)
but it wasn’t too difficult to figure it out! ;) and besides I didn’t write the full name of the place, did I ;) ?
btw, are you guys by any chance plan to revisit Poland anytime soon?
I’m not great at keeping secrets anyway haha. Poland, I would love to return to and explore properly, but I’m semi-planned out until the end of this year… I think about Lodz often – something about that main street, and the light, really fascinated me. But there were so many great things I saw all over Poland, even though I had such a short amount of time there. You will be the first to know if we head that way!
Beautiful! Looking at these photos you can imagine how extravagant it was in its hey day. Thanks for blowing my mind on this lovely Monday morning.
Nat, you’re most welcome, just doing my job ;)
Great stuff Nate! I love abandoned buildings. : )
You and me both! Cheers Bethany.
Sitting at my desk there are are currently 2 things that I am desiring. One, for it to be 1972 and two, to be in Krk.
One of those two is possible… the other, I’m not so sure…
Hey Dawg, wonderful as always- I was telling Buff I should give you more props for the excellent job you are doing – so here you go- Mad Props Bro’!!!
YO! Cheers man… we’ll have to Skype soon DAWG.
Great stuff as always Nate. Keep up the great work.
You make me smile. The first country I thought about is the one Kami found out…… I am so superjealous. Have a good time there, and keep up your grat work.
haha – I am constantly amazed at how well my readers can anticipate the places I’m headed to, and the things I’m planning on seeing. I remember not so long ago, when I told people I was heading to Bulgaria to see something “secret”, instantly people were saying “oh, you must be heading to Buzludzha, to see that abandoned communist monument on that remote mountain top”. Bingo. Maybe next time I’ll keep my secret, secret until after I return ;)
But cheers Alex, I’m really looking forward to it. Just trying to sort a Visa issue out with Moldova, but it’s looking good for next week.
I am happy for you that you try that. It is a long time hidden dream of me to go there and find out how it is in T………… .
Best wishes from Tyrol, Alex
Thanks Alex… and may your abandoned hotel dreams come true one day.
You are probably going to that secret location to drown your sorrow over the recent Ashes cock – up… It has been a series hasn’t it? I still can not figure out cricket though.
Hey Laurence… yes, it seems I picked the wrong time to catch up on some Cricket viewing. I’ve already bored one or two Romanians stupid in an attempt to explain the game and the importance of the series haha. It’s a hard one to understand for sure, I’ll admit that!
Realized I needed to do some catching up. Interesting post on and interesting place. What has been the consensus of the people there about Gen. Tito? DId they like him?
Hi Noelle! Consensus is, those who are old enough to remember, almost 100% loved him and that era.
Kind of seems like that would be the case from how you’ve talked about him. Very interesting.
Sorry for a few years late reply, but I’m reading this now and feel a strong need to say something.
Tito was not a general, he was a marshall. I had an honour to live in his time. Not long though, unfortunately, I was only 9 when he died. When he died, almost everyone was crying, I was crying too. On his funeral, Margaret Thatcher, his “bitter enemy” was also crying, so figure it out. I was reading an article former secret service member in charge of Tito’s protection wrote about Tito’s visit to White House, while JFK was the president. He said JFK was treating him like someone would treat their father. When he was leaving the White House, JFK ordered a helicopter to come and take him to the airport, then went with him outside, chit-chatted until helicopter arrived.
Nowadays, in former Yugoslav countries, people either adore or hate Tito. I’m among those who adore him. Crying again, quite often, just like now, for what we have lost and will never have again. Those who hate him… well, nationalist and fascist emigration returned, tore apart Yugoslavia, created banana states, destroyed industry, jobs, lives… they blame him, they say it was “not good” and because of that people are now losing their jobs and their homes. Some, usually those younger, born after Tito’s era believe them. Well, you have to blame someone after you become homeless, right?
However, I needed to grow up to realize what a great person and a leader he was. Yes, he did mistakes, many of them, especially during the first years of his ruling, after WW2. People in the west praise him for saying “no” to Stalin. Yet, they don’t realize Stalin was right and Tito was wrong – there were 3 points of disagreement: Tito was shooting down American and British military planes violating Yugoslav airspace. Stalin asked him to stop with that, because they could not afford a war with USA and Britain. Tito refused. Tito was also arming and supplying communist revolution in Greece. Stalin asked him to stop with that, because USA threatened with war again. Tito refused. Yet, when it came to disagreement between Tito and Stalin, Greek communists sided with Stalin, so Tito stopped to support them and they were annihilated in no time. The third problem was Bulgaria and Albania. Tito wanted them to become a part of Yugoslavia. Why? I don’t now. They were not a part of antifascist revolution that happened in Yugoslavia during WW2, so it is pretty pointless. They didn’t want it and Stalin didn’t want it.
So, if you check all three points of disagreement, it is quite simple: Tito was wrong and Stalin was right. Unfortunately, we are talking about late 40s of the last century. People here were uneducated, lots of them didn’t know how to read and write. Tito was their god. For years, Tito was telling them Stalin is their god too and suddenly, Stalin becomes devil. Lots of them didn’t know how to accept the new fact. They kept loving “the former god” Stalin, so it didn’t go very well for them, the ended imprisoned on Goli Otok (“Naked Island” nasty place… visit it if you come to Croatia). I guess I’m lucky I didn’t live at that time, because I would certainly be among those supporting Stalin.
Later… well, from time to time Tito was really a dictator, because he couldn’t bother to see the difference between evil people and unrealistic idealists. The great example is so called “Croatian Spring”, in 1971. Lots of them were just nazi emigration, or under the influence of nazi emigration. Some of them, however, were just unrealistic idealists. The most prominent, and the best example among later was Vlado Gotovac. He suffered greatly because of Tito and Tito was completely wrong about that. Many others who suffered with Vlado Gotovac… well, I’d just kill them, no questions asked. Tito didn’t. Life would be much better here now if he actually did.
I just discovered your site today (hmm, wonder why it took me so long to find it…).
Wow, this is an amazing article and I love your photos. I love urban photography and decay, so Haludovo really caught my eye. I might go to Criatia next year again and I was wondering if the hotel is “available” for the public or if you have to trespass to explore it?
I look forward to read more articles from your trip.
Mads – a Dane living in Munich
Hey Mads… you do technically have to “trespass”, but nobody is going to mind (that was my experience). You can basically walk straight in… Good luck!
ex YU was so nice country. we were just in beetwen iron fist of russia and democracy of the west europe. we had all big hotels, huge factories, planty of all what poeple need. and then came war thanks to slobo, tudjman and alia. after 90’s everything was just a shadow of all what tito make for time when he was “dictator”
pics are awesome!
Amazing country, Yugoslavia was one the most advanced countries at that time in Europe. Very liberal socialism and lack of Soviet influence with market economy. Many uneducated people can’t understand that .
I used to work there when it was run by the Penthouse Club. I was a Box Man on the craps table
Wow what a fascinating find! We are going to be staying on Krk Island in September, and I hadn’t seen this! I have also found Tito’s abandoned Plitvice Lakes holiday villa and the Zeljava undergound air base to explore as well.
Enjoy your time, I would love to hear about an update if you do visit Haludovo Hotel!