• 001 - the logo.jpg
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  • 100 - Peenemünde.jpg
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  • 120 - Marienthal with ghost.jpg
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  • 122 - Berlin Olympiastadion.JPG
  • 123 - Bastille Day, Paris.jpg
  • 124 - Spassk.jpg
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  • 131 - Barringer meteor crater.jpg
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  • 135 - pullution, Kazakhstan.JPG
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  • 170 - Jasenovac, Croatia.JPG
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  • 174 - Pervomaisc ICBM base, more  missiles, including an SS-18 Satan.jpg
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  • 185 - Lest we Forget, Ypres.JPG
  • 186 - the logo again.jpg

Villa Izvor

   
   - darkometer rating: 4 -
   
One of Tito's abandoned former summer residences in former Yugoslavia, namely at Plitvice, the famous scenic beauty spot in Croatia. Now largely forgotten, the former mansion is a crumbling ruin, heavily vandalized and looted, but still having plenty of beauty-in-decay appeal!   
More background info: As with some other “forgotten” sites from the Yugoslav era, it's not easy to find any reliable background information about this particular residence of Tito's (in contrast to the better known Brioni or his former home in Belgrade).
   
The Villa may have been constructed some time in the 1950s, some sources say construction began as early as 1948 and was finished in 1953, others say between 1955 and 1958. (And some claim that forced labour was used in the construction – but I found no way of ascertaining whether that was indeed the case.) The grand edifice was certainly used until the beginning of the Croatian War of Independence in 1991.
   
Tito allegedly visited the site only rarely himself. It was rather the case that some loyal Yugoslav military inner circles used the place to hold parties and feast on good food & wine (as well as women, it is also rumoured). There were plenty of ordinary entertainment facilities too, such as billiards, a bowling alley and a cinema.
   
In the 2000s there was allegedly a plan to restore this residence, but evidently nothing has ever come of that. By now, the dilapidation has progressed so much that the place is quite probably beyond repair.
   
Unlike Villa Rebar near Zagreb, this formerly much grander mansion has been largely forgotten, known only to some keen urban explorers (as well as looters and vandals).
  
   
What there is to see: As you approach along the mountain road, the rear of the Villa suddenly appears like a mirage in the middle of the dense forest.
   
Only as you get closer does the true grand scale of the edifice reveal itself, even though at this point you can only see two of the three wings. The outer walls are clad in grey granite and have wooden balconies on the outside of the north-facing façade, and tall colonnades on the central, west-facing rear.
   
Once through the entrance (one door seems to be permanently swung open wide), you can go upstairs to the main hall. But our guide first led us downstairs to the basement. That was to show us an escape tunnel formerly hidden behind a brick wall. This has been partly broken down so you can peek in. But since it had been raining so heavily all day, and even the corridor leading up to the tunnel was slightly flooded, we didn't attempt to actually enter the tunnel itself.
   
Instead we ascended the grand main stairs, still flanked by black marble, in a high-ceilinged hall with columns. Then we got to the central hall. This is still truly grand. A huge space, with a second level accessed by stairs forms a mezzanine that is wrapped around the rear of the hall. But the most stunning thing is the two-storey high glass-window front. Most of the glass is shattered and a few shreds of curtain were still fluttering atmospherically in the wind. I had seen pictures of the main hall online that showed some remaining furniture here, but when I was there (late March 2018) it had all gone.
   
The doors to the garden between the three wings stood open, but we didn't venture outside given the thick layer of snow that had accumulated there.
   
Instead we proceeded upstairs along the northern wing – this was Tito's realm, and we saw his private rooms at the end of the corridor, still with some yellow carpet on the floor. Otherwise it was bare.
   
Afterwards we went over to the southern wing. Upstairs were the guest apartments, downstairs the entertainment area – still evidenced by e.g. an overturned billiard table.
   
Otherwise, though, very little that's even halfway intact or discernible is left these days. The looters have been pretty thorough. Dilapidation in some parts is also such that the roof has collapsed, so one has to take care when exploring here and try to stay in the more stable-looking parts.
   
But all in all, I found this a highly atmospheric place, well worth the detour and effort – it was definitely one of the urbexing highlights of my 2018 trip to Croatia.
   
   
Location: well hidden in the forested hills to the north-west of Croatia's top tourist draw, the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is just 2 miles (3 km) away.
   
Google maps locator: [44.9027, 15.5717]
   
   
Access and costs: quite remote and not easy to find unless you know exactly where to go; abandoned and hence free.
   
Details: To get close to Villa Izvor you really need a car (or be an ardent mountain biker). Even though the location is only 2 miles (3 km ) from the Plitvice Lakes and the main road, it's a ca. 10 miles (15 km) drive from Plitvice Entrance 1. From there first head north (i.e. towards Karlovac) on the main D1 trunk road. This road follows the course of the gorge north of Plitvice on the eastern side. Drive past Korana and then shortly after the bridge across the gorge there's a sudden sharp left, where you have to turn onto the D42 road (ca. 3 miles / 4.5 km after Plitvica Entrance 1).
   
Drive this all the way back along the gorge, now on its western side, until you come to the Plitvica stream (which just a few yards further east forms the great waterfall of Plitvice). But instead of crossing the stream to get to the “Etno” holiday accommodation village, turn right and proceed up into the wooded hill. From there the road continues winding up for another 3 miles or so (4.5 km), before it suddenly ends at Villa Izvor.
   
When we made our way up the winding mountain road, there was still so much snow about (on the last day of March!) that halfway up our minibus/van could no longer continue. So we had to walk the last mile or so, partly through knee-deep snow. We also got wet from above, as it was a very rainy day. But it was worth the effort.
   
When I went there, it was part of a two-destination guided day tour (with the main other destination being Željava), offered by Destination Urban, who are based in Zagreb. We had this tour package tailor-made – normally Željava is combined with the Plitvice Lakes on the off-the-peg tours that start from Zagreb, but instead we had ours start from Plitvice (and did the Lakes independently on a different day). For 2 people with a driver and a guide we were charged just under 1500 kuna (ca. 200 EUR) for this combi tour.
   
   
Time required: depends on how much you are into dilapidated buildings. We spent about an hour there, but real urbex fans (and photographers) may need longer.
  
      
Combinations with other dark destinations: in general see under Croatia.
   
Physically the closest other dark site featured on this website is Željava, but that's also remote and a bit tricky to find. But it combines perfectly into a two-destination guided tour – which is what I did when I went there (see above).
   
Easy to get to independently (by car at least) are Karlovac ca. 60 miles (100 km) and even the capital Zagreb ca. 90 miles (145 km) away to the north.
   
   
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The No. 1 tourist attraction in the whole of Croatia (well, apart from the Adriatic coast, maybe) is little more than a stone's throw away: the Plitvice Lakes National Park, but to get there it's quite a roundabout route (see above).
   
Note that you cannot see Villa Izvor from the Plitvice Lakes National Park, as some claim (they tend to get it confused with buildings just beyond the waterfall), as these days it's completely hidden by trees from that angle.
   
   
 
  • Villa Izvor 01 - coming into viewVilla Izvor 01 - coming into view
  • Villa Izvor 02 - still looking grandVilla Izvor 02 - still looking grand
  • Villa Izvor 03 - entranceVilla Izvor 03 - entrance
  • Villa Izvor 04 - staircase insideVilla Izvor 04 - staircase inside
  • Villa Izvor 05 - secret escape tunnelVilla Izvor 05 - secret escape tunnel
  • Villa Izvor 06 - main hallVilla Izvor 06 - main hall
  • Villa Izvor 07 - glass frontVilla Izvor 07 - glass front
  • Villa Izvor 08 - lots of broken glassVilla Izvor 08 - lots of broken glass
  • Villa Izvor 09 - garden courtyardVilla Izvor 09 - garden courtyard
  • Villa Izvor 10 - Tito roomsVilla Izvor 10 - Tito rooms
  • Villa Izvor 11 - overturned billiards tableVilla Izvor 11 - overturned billiards table
  • Villa Izvor 12 - severe damageVilla Izvor 12 - severe damage
  • Villa Izvor 13 - it was a very wet dayVilla Izvor 13 - it was a very wet day
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  

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