An abandoned former tuberculosis sanatorium/hospital, high in the Medvednica mountain on the northern edge of Zagreb
More background info:
The hospital was built in the early 20th century and received its first patients in 1909. It was primarily planned as a sanatorium for those suffering from tuberculosis (TBC), which partly explains the location high in the Medvednica mountain range north of Zagreb
. Back then the best treatment for tuberculosis was believed to be clean fresh air and a hearty diet … as well as isolation.
See especially under Beelitz Heilstätten
for more background information about TBC and its socio-economic role as well as about the causes of and treatments for the disease.
In the case of the Brestovac sanatorium there's also a moving love story attached to the place … but I'll refrain from retelling it here. If you need to know you can find versions of the story online, but I first heard it from my guide at the site. And I don't want to spoilt that in case you too decide to go there on such a guided tour.
Anyway, the Brestovac sanatorium (just like Beelitz
) temporarily took on a role as a military hospital during both WW1
. Towards the end of the latter, so I was more recently told, the partisans conquered the hospital and allegedly killed all the enemy soldier patients (but spared the staff) and then used the facility to nurse their own wounded fighters until the end of the war.
After WWII the hospital remained in operation for a while, even after other, better treatments for TBC were found. Yet as a regular hospital it was too far out of the city and its facilities slowly decayed. So in the late 1960s it was closed altogether. It has been abandoned ever since.
Looting, vandalism and natural dilapidation have all taken their toll, and today you can only wander around the ground level, as the staircases have apparently long collapsed (and it would be unsafe to go so deep into the structure anyway).
Other than the odd urban explorer
, the only people using the site are paintballers who use it as their playground. Apparently it's quite a popular “sport” here ...
What there is to see:
Not that much, just some atmospheric ruins in the forest. For lovers of abandoned places that'll be enough to want to go there and indeed the place is highly photogenic too (see gallery below
). For others it's probably not so exciting.
I went there as part of a longer day tour from Zagreb
, whose first stop was the legendary Villa Rebar
, with which it combines well, given the location (see details below
Then we drove up the mountain road and parked our minibus at the turn-off of the approach track at one of the switchbacks of the main road and walked from there, as the unpaved track would have been too demanding for our vehicle.
It's only a half kilometre (0.3 miles) walk and easy. The ruins are quite well hidden from view by trees that have grown all around them since the place was abandoned in the 1960s. But as you turn the corner halfway there the shapes of the main building start to become visible.
Close up it's quite an atmospheric structure to behold. But you can't explore the inside except for some bits on the ground floor and the terrace on the first upper level. My guide told me that inside the staircases have collapsed so that you couldn't safely go and explore the interior in any more depth. Meanwhile, however, I was informed by another local explorer that that's not strictly speaking so, but that one staircase does lead to the top floor and the really adventurous could even get to the roof-top (by means of climbing a tree that grows over it) – yet it was confirmed that the interior is indeed in a very dilapidated state, so it's “adventurous” to explore this. So I guess my guide was just reluctant to let me go in for health and safety concerns.
Anyway, this building is the most intact remainder of the former sanatorium complex, even if nature is slowly reclaiming it … trees are growing on the first level terrace and on the roof.
To the west of the main building you can see the curved colonnades where the tuberculosis patients would have been lying in the open air back in the day (cf. Beelitz
), and my guide had an old photo of this on her smartphone to further illustrate this. She also had stories to tell about the place … but as indicated above
, I won't give any of that away here ...
Along the track below the main part are yet more derelict buildings. These are completely ruined, with all the roofs collapsed and very little still in place other than parts of the outer walls and the massive foundations.
Especially in these ruins there's plenty of evidence of the site being used for paintballing. You can see the splatters of paint in many places and even lots of unspent paintballs on the floor. Some of the beams have been secured with padding so that players don't whack their heads into them. But at least when we were there no actual paintballers were around. I've read online that when they are in action here, you have to be careful not to be hit by mistake when you inadvertently walk into their path. Apparently they can be quite trigger-happy and indiscriminate as to who they're aiming at …
high up on the slopes of Zagreb
's Medvenica mountain north of the city in a hidden location off the main road.
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: quite hidden, best accessed as part of a guided tour; free as such, not counting any tour fees.
Details: If you have a car at your disposal (or are a keen and fit mountain biker) you could make your own way to this abandoned structure. Use the Google Maps locators given above to find the turn-off from the main road that goes over Medvednica. It's a one-way system starting on the eastern side of the mountain and finishing on the western side. You cannot see the abandoned hospital from this road, and the last bit you'll have to walk unless you have a 4x4 or other suitable vehicle for the last stretch of unpaved track.
When I was in Zagreb
in April 2018, I went to Brestovac as part of a longer guided tour which lasted most of a day and included transport (by minibus) and a knowledgeable guide – namely from the operator Destination Urban
, who specialize in such urban exploration tours. See here for their sponsored page
with more details. The other elements on this tour were Villa Rebar
and Kerestinec Castle
. Together with an additional half-day walking tour of central Zagreb
the day before, this whole package cost a bit over 1100 HRK (ca. 150 EUR).
Time required: as a stand-alone visit, provided you have your own means of transport, probably no longer than an hour max, plus travelling time. That was also roughly the amount of time it took up during the day tour I went on which included Brestovac.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
When I went to Berestovac it was as part of a combination tour that also included Villa Rebar
and afterwards an excursion to Kerestinec Castle
outside Zagreb. So in that form it already comes pre-combined. See above
For more within the city see under Zagreb
, and for things further afield under Croatia
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Medvednica mountain is also a popular destination for hiking and the outdoors in general. At the time of my visit, a new cable car was under construction which should soon make going up there easy. At the summit by the TV transmission tower there are a couple of restaurants/cafés. And more of those are dotted around the mountainscape elsewhere, which is indicative of a healthy visitor trade.
Obviously there are many good views over Zagreb
to be had from this mountain (weather permitting), and also over Medvedgrad
. The latter is a mediaeval fortress built on a hill south of and below Medvednica. The old fortress towering over Zagreb is a tourist attraction in its own right. But when I was on the tour on Medvednica we only stopped at a view point that combined a view over the fortress with that of Zagreb beyond, but did not go to the fortress as such.
See also under Zagreb
- Brestovac 1 - abandoned hospital
- Brestovac 2 - trees growing on the upper floors
- Brestovac 3 - damaged plaque
- Brestovac 4 - former tuberculosis sanatorium
- Brestovac 5 - more buildings
- Brestovac 6 - ruined beyond repair
- Brestovac 7 - decay
- Brestovac 8 - evidence of paint-balling
- Brestovac 9 - more evidence of paint-balling