Inside Croatia’s abandoned haven of hedonism: The derelict remains of Haludovo Hotel, the


Dozens of ruined and dilapidated former hotels, casinos, and state-owned resorts stand along Croatia’s bejewelled Adriatic coast, abandoned after the Yugoslav Wars. 

But there is one with a particularly salacious history – the Haludovo Hotel.

Back in the 1970s, it was a haven of hedonism. Conceived of and bank-rolled by Bob Guccione, one of America’s most infamous porn barons, hostesses in corsets called ‘Penthouse Pets’ swanned around, bringing guests Champagne. Saddam Hussein would stay in the master suite.

Now it is graffiti-strewn and debris-riddled, a building code nightmare.

But though the former palace of ‘Peace and Porn’ is a deteriorating husk, many curious tourists still make a pilgrimage to its remains, on the sun-drenched island of Krk, to capture its derelict grandeur in photographs. Haludovo is almost as fascinating a structure in decay as it was when it was a swinging hotspot.

Haludovo Hotel, on the island of Krk in Croatia, was built in the late 1960s to be a decadent pleasure palace for American tourists and the glitterati

Haludovo Hotel, on the island of Krk in Croatia, was built in the late 1960s to be a decadent pleasure palace for American tourists and the glitterati

Haludovo Hotel was conceived of and bankrolled by porn czar Bob Guccione

Haludovo Hotel was conceived of and bankrolled by porn czar Bob Guccione

In its hey-dey, the opulent estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini football pitch and mini-golf, as well as waterski, paragliding and diving centres, multiple swimming pools, and a bowling alley

In its hey-dey, the opulent estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini football pitch and mini-golf, as well as waterski, paragliding and diving centres, multiple swimming pools, and a bowling alley

In the 1960s, Guccione – founder of Penthouse Magazine, the first American publication to feature full-frontal nudity – dreamed of building a lavish resort in Malinska, Krk, comprised of luxury hotels and a grand casino, to attract a wealthy American clientele to the largely ignored socialist Yugoslavia.

It seemed a canny business decision: although the country had casinos for tourists, the people of Yugoslavia were banned from gambling in them. Consequently casinos went largely untaxed. 

Guccione hoped wealthy American tourists would head to Krk to gamble away their money at his hotel, where he could hire locals to work without any American employment regulations in play.

In a 1972 interview with Radio Free Europe, Guccione said he believed his resort would be a ‘real formula in the struggle against the cold war’ claiming it would help humanise the socialist Croats in the eyes of Americans and vice versa.

Guccione sunk $45million (approximately $376m/£296m in modern currency) into the development of the property and the casino (under the ownership of Croat enterprise group Brodokomerc), enlisting Boris Magaš, one of the most celebrated Croatian architects of the twentieth century, to design the complex. At the time the hotel was strikingly modern: now architects consider it a classic example of the brutalist style.

Designed by celebrated Croatian architect Boris Maga¿, the Haludovo Hotel is considered by architects to be a classic example of brutalist architecture

Designed by celebrated Croatian architect Boris Magaš, the Haludovo Hotel is considered by architects to be a classic example of brutalist architecture

A 1972 ad for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a 'mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings [that] will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground'

A 1972 ad for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a ‘mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings [that] will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground’

The Haludovo Hotel pool in the 1970s. One story - possibly apocryphal - maintains that for one particularly debauched party the pool was filled with Champagne

The Haludovo Hotel pool in the 1970s. One story – possibly apocryphal – maintains that for one particularly debauched party the pool was filled with Champagne

A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, the Haludovo is quite a dangerous site

A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, the Haludovo is quite a dangerous site

It took four years to construct, and The Haludovo Palace Hotel and Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino opened in 1972 to great fanfare. A 1972 advertisement for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a ‘mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings [that] will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground for summer and winter seasons alike’.

Every inch of the complex was designed for leisure, pleasure, and decadence: from glittering chandeliers to poolside cocktail service, and from a bowling alley to modish ‘conversation pits’. 

The opulent estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini football pitch and mini-golf, as well as waterski, paragliding and diving centres. One story – possibly apocryphal, but pretty to believe – gushes that one of its many pools was perpetually filled with Champagne.

Above is Bob Guccione. A friend called Haludovo one of 'a succession of colossally unwise business ventures' by Guccione

Above is Bob Guccione. A friend called Haludovo one of ‘a succession of colossally unwise business ventures’ by Guccione

During its first year, reports estimate guests consumed 100kg (224lb) of lobster, 5kg (11 lb) of caviar, and hundreds of bottles of Champagne each day. Penthouse ‘Pets’ – Guccione’s retort to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Bunnies – were flown in from the States, and attended to guests dressed in skimpy French maid dresses. Though you may assume these ladies were employed to titillate, Guccione insisted to one publication they were part of his plan for East-West appeasement, calling them ‘the peace forces of the new world’.

In its heyday the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene, and ordinary citizens. Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo’s most notorious guests. 

According to Croatian publication The Balkanist, on one occasion The Butcher of Baghdad ‘famously left a $2,000 tip for a particularly pleasing pet’. Rumour also had it he had to delay his flight back to Baghdad ‘because his son forgot a golden pistol beneath a pillow in his suite’.

What Haludovo did not do, however, is make money: in 1973 it declared bankruptcy due to its extravagant running costs, although it managed to stay open over the next two decades (Guccione haemorrhaged money into the property, part of what a friend called ‘a succession of colossally unwise business ventures‘) until 1991, when Yugoslavia was ravaged by civil war.

What was once a bolthole for the glitterati became a literal refuge: families displaced by the war were housed in the now out-of-service hotel throughout the war. Upset when they were unceremoniously evicted from the property at the war’s end, many refugees stripped Haludovo of any item of value imaginable: pipes, radiators, copper wiring, and electric sockets.

Strangely beautiful: Elaborate graffiti in the entryway of the former Haludovo Hotel. Picture credit: Foodbaby

Strangely beautiful: Elaborate graffiti in the entryway of the former Haludovo Hotel. Picture credit: Foodbaby

The hotel was turned into a refuge for people who lost their homes in the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s

The hotel was turned into a refuge for people who lost their homes in the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s 

In its heyday the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene, and ordinary citizens

Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo's most notorious guests

In its heyday the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene, and ordinary citizens. Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo’s most notorious guests 

The sun-drenched island of Krk. A bridge connects the Adriatic spot to the mainland

The sun-drenched island of Krk. A bridge connects the Adriatic spot to the mainland

In 1995 the hotel was privatised, and the investor then carved the huge estate up, selling it bit by bit, piecemeal. Though parts of the hotel reopened to guests, it never regained its former opulent patina or clientele. The last recorded guests visited in 2002.

Since then, it has fallen more and more into disrepair. A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, this defunct pleasure palace is quite a dangerous site.

The Balkanist said: ‘Piles of broken glass cover the floor. Large chunks of the concrete staircase have broken off and fallen to the ground below. Floors buckle. The skylights have all shattered, leaving shards of serrated windowpane hovering overhead.

‘A long trail of blood leads up two flights of stairs to the top floor. And then there are the unsettling tags, probably written by high school students but still disturbing: ‘DIE HELP ME HELP ME’ and Saxa loquuntur, which is Latin for “the stones talk”.’





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