The Dark Side of Croatia’s Tourism Boom

Bijela Kuca

Bol, the name of the town where this hulking ruin resides, means “pain”. Bijela Kuca means “White House”. The seaside structure was not built by the communists, but by Dominicans who’ve had a monastery on the east side of Brac since the 15th century. They built Bijela Kuca out of Brac stone in 1936, and until WWII, it operated as a Dominican high school. In 1963, the Dominicans say the municipality’s communist leadership “practically forced” them to sell the building for use as a state-run hotel. And they acquiesced.

Bijela Kuca reopened as a hotel that same year, and had more than 300 beds. It was managed by a state-owned company called Zlatni Rat. The new hotel was a major financial success, and sparked further development of the tourism sector across the island.

During the 1990s war, the hotel became another shelter for refugees. The last year Bijela Kuca welcomed a tourist was in 1991. After the war ended, foreign visitors stayed away from Croatia for several years. And by 2003, Zlatni Rat had accumulated so much debt that the Croatian government was forced to take over ownership of the hotel. Yet it remains vacant.

The Dominicans have been involved in a protracted legal battle with the local government over what they say was a forced surrender of their property to communist-era authorities. They want Bijela Kuca back because, as they tell it, “they built it and paid for it themselves”. In the meantime, the structure has grown so dilapidated that locals have written letters to the prime minister describing the former hotel as a “house of horror” and begging for help. It really inspires fear. On Brac, everybody knows Bijela Kuca isn’t the type of place you walk around on your own at night. Some say the large structure is on the verge of collapse.

Next Page: Children’s Resort in Krvavica

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Lily Lynch

Lily is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine. She lives in Belgrade, Serbia.