No Return Address: Unearthing Yugoslavia from Old Postcards [Pt. 1]

Updated: Jul 9

A postcard operates a bit like a rosy-tinted portal. Carefully selected by the sender, the idealized image is sent from its place of origin to be received in some far-off destination. Upon arrival, the mind of the recipient is then whimsically transported to that wondrous spot. However, after that initial moment of intended utility elapses, the postcard is set aside, slowly transforming from a portal into a time-machine, allowing us a view through a window that gradually transforms from an idealized present to an idealized past. Old postcards which act as temporal gateways into the past become all the more dramatic and amplified when the locations depicted undergo substantial change over time, leading to the scene being re-framed in ways that could not have been imagined or predicted. Whether that change is social, political, cultural or in some other form, the windows which these old postcards provide us can not only defy our understandings of the past, but also that of the present, and maybe even the future.

The former country of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a landscape whose idealized past is etched in untold thousands of postcards. Examining these photographic relics of Yugoslav-life reveal a vibrant, colorful and modern world, beset with fashionable people, themselves surrounded by an architecturally ambitious and progressively built environment. However, the idealized world these postcards reveal is not the world that most people in the international community recall when asked to invoke images of the former-Yugoslavia in their mind. The images that will instead surface in these people’s minds are grainy visions of dreary tattered landscapes ravaged by war, desperate refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing and the destruction inflicted upon much of the country as a result of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. Such horrific mental imagery is so powerful that it permeates the very core of many people’s understanding about this region, even to the point of subverting the reality of what Yugoslavia once was before the wars began and even what it is today. As a consequence, when most people in the international community think back upon Yugoslavia, often all they can remember is the violence and war.


To address this historical amnesia found in many people around the world as far as what Yugoslavia was before the 1990s wars, the images in this article "No Return Address” will operate as a temporal window through which will be examined the imagery of the “idealized” Yugoslavia etched in the country’s historical legacy of postcard production. In this article, I will present a choice selection from my personal vintage postcards collection, all categorized in such a way as to highlight the varying facets of Yugoslav daily life, architecture, society and culture. Many people around the world today have never seen a portrayal of Yugoslavia as an energetic dynamic nation, much less any images showing it populated by a modern fashionable people settled within a vibrant and innovatively built environment. As such, this article, which is "Part One" of a multi-article exploration, will work to reveal that world missed by some, forgotten by others and unknown to many.

 



Ferizaj/Uroševac, Kosovo*

A vintage postcard showing Ferizaj/Uroševac, Kosovo* Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

This postcard depicts 1960s-era scene from the central square of the small Kosovo* town known as Ferizaj (in Albanian), also known as Uroševac (in Serbian). The focus of this street scene is Hotel Lybeten, a modern hotel facility built during the early 1960s in the International Style. The most striking feature of the hotel is a large modernist geometric mural portraying a waiter, painted in 1967 by artist Anton Gjoni. Sources describe this vibrant work as a symbol of the region’s working class and service heritage, as the town has long been a center of commerce, transportation and trade, existing along the historical pathway between the urban centers of Prishtina and Podgorica. The mural continues to exist in good condition up to the present day and remains an important symbol for the town up until present day. Meanwhile, in front of the hotel can be seen a small group of curious well-dressed townspeople posing for the photographer next to a 1950s-era Soviet GAZ Pobeda M72 4x4 sedan. The Pobeda, which means ‘victory’ in Russian, was a popular export to Yugoslavia during that era.


Postojna, Slovenia

A vintage postcard showing Postojna, Slovenia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

The Carniola town of Postojna, Slovenia, famous for its amazing system of karst caves and caverns, is an ancient settlement with a history going back more than a thousand years. In this postcard we see a view of its residents strolling and carrying their shopping bags through the town’s central plaza of Tito Square. At the center of the scene is Hotel “Kras”, which means “Karst” in English. Built in 1963, it was the first hotel built in Postojna since WWII and among the first buildings in the community constructed in the modernist style of architecture. During the Yugoslav era, its cafe was a popular gathering spot for locals, especially as it hosted the town’s first pizza shop. However, in the post-Yugoslav era, it fell into neglect and disrepair. As a result, it was torn down in 2008. The following year a new hotel in streamlined contemporary styling was opened at its former location. The square was also then closed to cars. Interestingly, the “Kompas” tourist info center on the right is still open, looking very much the same as it does here.


Bijelo Polje, Montenegro

A vintage postcard from Bijelo Polje, Montenegro. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Here we see a four-panel card of vibrant street scenes, with a message in the center that announces “Greetings from Bijelo Polje”. This town, whose name translates to “White Fields” in English, is located high in the northern mountains of Montenegro within the Lim River valley. The lower two panels show various street vistas of residents engaged in their daily activities. Meanwhile, the top right panel depicts a group of young people hanging around the base of the Freedom Monument, which is a 1952 figurative bronze work by the sculptors Stevan Bodnarov & Branko Bon which honors the local fighters who battled against facsist forces with the Yugoslav Partisan movement during WWII. Finally, the upper right scene shows the modernist hotel name “Bijela Rada”. This concrete angular tower became one of the central landmarks and symbols for the town when it was built in the 1970s and continues to hold that status to this day, retaining much of its original Yugoslav-era charm.


Kavadarci, North Macedonia

A vintage postcard view of Gradski Trg in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

In this 1950s era postcard, we see a street scene from Gradski Trg (City Square), located at the center Kavadarci in what is today North Macedonia. With a pair of local children in the foreground, behind them we see the Monument to the Revolution. Built by Croatian sculptor Petar Palavičini (one of the last works he created before passing away), this memorial sculpture was inaugurated on September 7th, 1958 (Kavadarci Liberation Day) and honors the city's resistance fighters who rose up against occupation during WWII, as well as commemorating the roughly 500 city residents that died during the conflict. On the front of the monument's pedestal is an inscription which translates from Macedonian to English as: "For the freedom of our people". The sculpture consists of three figures, the central being a woman holding one arm high into the air while she pull wounded child with her other hand. On the right of the scene is “Hotel Balkan”, which was opened in 1968 and was among the first contemporary modernist facilities to be built in the town. It offered a wide range of services to the community, such as a department store, a cinema, cafes and much more. The monument continues to be a central symbol of Kavadarci, however, the Hotel Balkan is no longer in operation and is currently for sale.

 



Bovec, Slovenia

A vintage postcard view of the ski resort at Bovec, Slovenia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

On the slopes of Kanin Mountains, high in the Julian Alps, above the alpine village of Bovec is the Kanin Ski Resort. Kanin took off as a ski resort destination in 1974, when the ski complex seen in the postcard was built, which included a cable car lift from the valley below, a restaurant, visitors center, observation deck and other amenities. This complex, which sits at 2220m, is impressive not only because of its bold bright architecture, but also because it is the highest operating ski resort in Slovenia (the Adriatic can be seen 70km away on a clear day), making its construction, all the more, a significant engineering achievement. Furthermore, a 2008 project connected this resort to the Sella Nevea Ski Resort on the opposite north slopes of the Kanin Mountains, making it one of the only international ski resorts in the region. Kanin continues to operate as among of the most popular ski resorts in Slovenia, with its ski center looking just as good as it does in this vintage postcard.


Split, Croatia

A vintage postcard view of Gripe Arena in Split, Croatia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

In the Adriatic city of Split, Croatia, roughly 500m east of the main waterfront is situated the “Gripe” Sports Arena. Created by famous Sarajevo architect Živorad Janković in 1979, this bright white plastered complex was built for Split’s hosting of the 1979 Mediterranean Games. The form of this sleek modernist stadium is dominated by sloping lines and sharp angles floating above walls of glass curtains, almost futuristic in its appearance. In addition, as the complex was largely meant to attract Yugoslav youth, concerts were also held here. Interestingly, British rock group Dire Straits kicked off their 1985 “Brothers in Arms” world tour here at Gripe. After Gripe’s completion, Split architect Slaven Rožić began work on the “Koteks” shopping center, seen in the foreground. Completed in 1981, its design mirrors the architectural aesthetics of Janković’s arena and is considered by some to be the first true “shopping mall” in communist Europe. It has fallen into poor condition since its 1996 privatization, but some architectural groups are advocating for its preservation. Since about 2020, the architectural heritage group “Motel Trogir” has been working to have the complex designated as a cultural monument of Croatia, while also organizing historical tours of the facility.


Belgrade, Serbia

A vintage photo of the Pionir Center in Belgrade. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Located in the Belgrade neighborhood of Bogoslovija is the sports complex originally known as “Pionir” Hall. The project was commissioned by the city in July of 1972 to act as a venue for the forthcoming European Boxing Championship (just 11 months away). The design team who won the bid, husband/wife architect duo Ljiljana & Dragoljub Bakić, were on under such intense deadline pressure to meet the deadline that it required them to design the project as it was being built. Miraculously, the construction project’s deadline, spearheaded by Energoprojekt, was met and Pionir Hall was unveiled to much fanfare on May 24th, 1973, the day before President Tito’s birthday. Considered a landmark of architecture in Belgrade, its form defied modernist ideals of “form following function”, and instead created a building as loud and dynamic as the sports undertaken within it, all typified by its bright blue roof crossed with bold yellow oversized beams and its array of playful raw concrete terraces. Originally built with a capacity of over 5,800 seats, the Pionir Sports Hall, along with a matching hockey arena the two architects subsequently built next door, won the Bakić team many architectural awards. Renamed “Aleksandar Nikolić” Hall in 2016, it continues to be a popular destination for Belgrade youth. In recognition of her work on this building, among others, Ljiljana Bakić was recognized as one of the 100 best female European architects between the years 1918-2018.


Tetovo, N. Macedonia

A vintage postcard showing the Popova Šapka ski resort at Tetovo, North Macedonia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Next to a message reading: “Greetings from Popova Šapka, Tetovo”, we see an image showing the central lodge, “Hotel INEX”, of the Popova Šapka ski resort located in what is today just outside of Tetovo, North Macedonia. Located high in the Šar Mountains, Popova Šapka is a very high elevation ski resort, with lifts reaching as high as 2,252m (the highest in the country). When the Belgrade firm “INEX” took over management of the resort in 1968, the first modern ski lift was constructed, as was the central ski lodge/hotel complex seen in this postcard. Designed by Belgrade architect Slavko Brezovski, the complex is characterized by its “rustic alpine” modernism, as well as its iconic stained glass pyramid. As the site can be hard to reach, originally, a cable-car would take people up to the Popova Šapka from Tetovo, a large town 7km to the east at the base of the mountain, however, this system was destroyed during the 2001 Battle of Tetovo. Popova Šapka continues to be a popular ski resort to this day, especially being only 1 hour from the capital of Skopje.

 



Jablanica, BiH

A vintage postcard of the Battle for the Wounded Museum in Jablanica, BiH. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Located in the town of Jablanica, BiH is the Museum of the Battle for the Wounded on the Neretva River, which was a dramatic WWII episode in March of 1943 where Marshal Tito cleverly used the intentional destruction of a bridge over the Neretva as a distractionary tactic to allow him and his army (along with wounded soldiers) to escape the clutches of descending Nazi forces. The museum, unveiled in 1978 and designed by a team of Sarajevo architects including Branko Tadić, Zdravko Dundjerović and Mustafa Ramić, is a large white modernist complex with huge windows overlooking the river overlooking the remains of the destroyed bridge. Interestingly, these bridge ruins are not the same upon which Tito crossed, but, actually, a reproduction bridge that was built on the same location and then destroyed for the 1968 Yugoslav film “Battle on the Neretva” depicting these WWII events. However, while visitors were originally able to follow Tito’s steps and walk along side the bridge along a narrow wooden catwalk spanning the river, the raging waters of the Neretva washed downstream the section laying within the river (along with the catwalk) in 1991. It was not until 30 years later in 2021 that this historic crossing was finally reestablished. The museum is still in good condition and continues to operate up to the present day.


Lovćen, Montenegro

A vintage postcard view of the Njegos Mausoleum museum at Lovćen, Montenegro. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Towering above Montenegro’s famous Kotor Bay is Lovćen Mountain. This 1,750m tall peak is notable not only for its scenic views and vistas of the entire region, but it is also a site of cultural importance, because it is here that resides the mausoleum and museum dedicated to the poet philosopher prince Petar Petrović Njegoš, who passed way in 1851. Being one of the most famous figures in Serbian cultural and literary history, it was this location on the top of Lovćen Mountain that Njegoš himself chose as his burial site before his death. This memorial and museum complex was built between 1971-1974 was designed by famous Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović, who also created several sculptural works within the mausoleum. This mausoleum replaced a former chapel that held Njegoš’s remains that he himself had built in 1845. It is important to note that Meštrović designed this facility and sculpted the worked for it during the late 1950s and subsequently passed away in 1962, so, the project was finally undertaken and completed after his death. Furthermore, during the construction of the complex, the restaurant facility and observation area called “Vidikovac” underneath of the mausoleum was created by Slovene architect Marko Mušič. The complex continues to be expertly maintained and exists as an extremely population tourist destination up to the present day.


Kragujevac, Serbia

A vintage postcard view of the Oct 21st Museum in Kragujevac, Serbia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

At the center of the town of Kragujevac, Serbia is Šumarice Memorial Park, the heart of which is the Museum October 21st. It was in this park on that date in 1941 during WWII that Nazi soldiers massacred thousands of innocent local civilians in vast reprisal killings. After the war, the area was set up as a memorial park, with many monuments being constructed, starting in the 1950s. Then, in 1976, on the 35th anniversary of the massacre, this museum complex was opened to the public. Created by the architect team of Ivan Antić & Ivanka Raspopović, the modernist complex is characterized by 33 red-brick towers (ranging in height from 4m to 21m) which each have skylights at their tops. These 33 towers symbolize the 33 mass graves found in the area after the war. Upon its unveiling, it was the most state-of-the-art museum in Yugoslavia, with numerous interactive and audio/visual exhibits. It continues to be one of the most important museums in Serbia.

 



Mostar, BiH

A vintage postcard view of the HIT center in Mostar, BiH. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Originally located on Mostar’s Spanish Square at the site of the old train station was the imposing Department Store “HIT” (Herzegovina Integrated Trade), just a block west of the Neretva River. Built by Bosnian architect Safet Galešić, this massive 5,300 sq m retail outlet became one of the central commercial hubs (and even a tourist attraction) for Mostar as soon as it was unveiled in 1973. With a facade dominated by a decorative white metal screen, this loud modernist structure stood in sharp contrast to Mostar’s ancient architecture. HIT became such a cultural symbol for Mostar that when 36 local workers died in a bus crash in 1985, a large memorial ceremony attended by 30,000 people was held in front of the store. However, during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the area of Spanish Square became a frontline of fighting, resulting in the structure being completely destroyed by artillery. It was subsequently demolished. Since 1994, the new Croatian National Theatre has been under construction at HIT’s former location. More info on the HIT shopping center in Mostar, as well as other department stores across Yugoslavia, can be found in my article on the subject HERE.


Bor, Serbia

A vintage postcard view of the "Beograd" center in Bor, Serbia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

At the north end of Freedom Square in the town of Bor, Serbia is the Department Store “Beograd”, which was a chain of stores founded in Belgrade in 1965 and was among the largest chains in Europe during the Yugoslav-era. As seen in the above image of this department store, the center operates as a bustling center of community life, with families shopping and children playing. Unveiled in 1970, the building was designed by the Belgrade architecture bureau "Arhitectura i Urbanizam", which was led by the architects Krešmir Martinković, Čedomir Beloš and Felix Bajlons. The complex is characterized by the bold yellow geometric pattern of its textured metal screen which covers building’s entire front facade. Despite being a center of community activity, the “Beograd” complex closed and fell into disrepair during the economic turmoil of the 1990s. However, in 2010, an investment group intent on reinvigorating the “Beograd” chain injected 1.5 million euros into re-opening it, at which point its old fading yellow screen was painted bright red. While it remains open to present-day, unresolved roof drainage issues have resulted with the screen’s new red paint chipping away, slowly revealing its original defiant yellow color.


Zagreb, Croatia

A vintage postcard view of the NAMA center in Zagreb, Croatia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Situated on the east end of Kvaternik Square in Zagreb, Croatia is a surviving example of one of the flagship examples of the once-ubiquitous “NAMA” Department Store chain. Founded in Zagreb in 1945 after the nationalization of the “Kastner & Grgić” trading company, this new business was named “Narodni magazin” (“The People’s Store”) or “NAMA”. It quickly became the most significant retail chain in Croatia. NAMA outlets were largely constructed with stylish modern architectural aesthetics in mind, with the Kvaternik Square site, built in 1968 by architects Josip Hitil & Slobodan Jovičić, typified by its brilliantly illuminated geometric tile facade. In fact, this NAMA outlet was considered such a showpiece that in 1969, digital artist Vladimir Bonačić installed a series of computer-driven light arrays on its facade, making it one of the earliest public exhibitions of digital art in Yugoslavia. After a messy privatization in the 1990s, NAMA went through a slow decline until its bankruptcy. It has since reorganized, with the Kvaternik Sq. NAMA still operating, while the facade of the department store itself has suffered very few alterations, leaving it looks very similar to the way it originally appeared.

 



Škofja Loka, Slovenia

A vintage postcard view of a church in Škofja Loka, Slovenia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Nestled in the foothills of the Julian Alps is the small village of Poljane nad Škofjo Loko. The primary historical feature of this town is the Parish Church of St. Martin (Župnijska cerkev sv. Martina). This church, which is of the Catholic denomination, was originally of a Baroque style up until WWII, having been built during the 18th century. However, during WWII, the church and its bell tower suffered extreme damage as the result of conflicts between Slovene Partisan and Axis occupiers. After the war, efforts were put forward to repair the damaged Baroque church (appeals were even made to Tito himself), but the church ruins were found to be too unstable. As a result, in 1954, the damaged church ruins were razed to the ground. An initiative was then immediately started to build a new St. Martin’s church to replace the demolished one. After much deliberating with the communist government, a permit to construct a new church was granted to the village and construction began in 1965. The new church, designed by Slovene architect Anton Bitenc and unveiled in 1967, was a unique synthesis of modernist styling and traditional Slovene architecture. An altarpiece within the church was painted by Slovene artist Stane Kregar. In 1997, the 1967 bell tower visible in the above postcard was removed and a new much taller bell tower was built adjacent to the church.


Skopje, North Macedonia

A vintage postcard view of the cathedral in Skopje, North Macedonia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Near the city center of Skopje, on the west side of the Vardar River, just off of Partisan Unit Boulevard is the Cathedral Church of Saint Clement of Ohrid (Soboren crkva „Sveti Kliment Ohridski“) and is the largest house of worship of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the country. Designed by notable Macedonian architect Slavko Brezovski (who was also the author of the Yugoslav Embassy in Brasilia), this Macedonian Orthodox cathedral was begun in 1972 but not completed until 1990 as the result of budget delays and technical hurdles. Built in a rotunda style, the church is roughly 36mx36m wide and has the capacity for over 6,000 worshipers. Modeled after the unique roof line of the Church of Agios Athanasioss in Greece, this structure of the church is created from a novel postmodernist arrangement of carefully organized sets of domes and arches, giving the church simultaneously a very contemporary aesthetic and, at the same time, a decidedly traditional atmosphere. Within the inner dome of the church is a massive set of frescoes and religious icons painted by Jovan Petrov. Adjacent to the church is a 45m tall bell tower, atop which are three large Austrian-made bells, the largest being over 1000kg.


Zagreb, Croatia

Two vintage postcard views of the mosque in Zagreb, Croatia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Positioned on the southeast edge of the city of Zagreb is the massive Zagreb Mosque & Islamic Center (Zagrebačka džamija i Islamski centar). After the last mosque in Zagreb was de-consecrated in 1948 [more info on that in THIS article], the city's Muslim community went for many decades without any significant house of worship, which resulted in many within this community petitioning the government of Zagreb to be allowed one to be built. After more than 20 years, a resolution was passed and permission was granted to create a large scale mosque complex for the city of Zagreb. Construction on this project, done by the Zagreb firm "Tehnika", began in 1981 and lasted six years, being unveiled to the pubic in 1987. The central dome of the mosque departs wildly from traditional mosque architecture, with it instead crafted in a highly modernist style characterized by three seashell-like roof sections folding together in a very elegant and shapely manner. Next to the dome is a towering minaret spire reaching 51m tall. The work was designed by Sarajevo architect Džemal Čelić, with assistance by Mirza Gološ. Artwork within the mosque was executed by famous Bosnian calligrapher Ešref Kovačević. In addition to the mosque, within this complex are also an Islamic school, a cultural center, libraries, and residential facilities. More info on this complex, as well as other religious institutions around Yugoslavia, can be found in my article on the subject HERE.

 



Šibenik, Croatia

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Jadran in Šibenik, Croatia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Situated along the scenic and sparkling Adriatic coast is the coastal town of Šibenik. Positioned within the main waterfront promenade of Šibenik is a notable building called the Hotel Jadran. The hotel was unveiled in 1959 and designed by local Šibenik architect Ivan Vitić, who was unquestionable among the most famous and influential architects in Yugoslavia. Built in the International Style and built by the local contractor “Izgradnja”, the hotel was notable not only for being adorned with an array of colorful window panels across its front street-facing facade (similar to his famous Vitić Skyscraper in Zagreb), but it also contained some unique elements of critical regionalism, such as having portions of its front facade finished in native stone blocks. This use of domestic materials in a building designed in the International Style, allowing it to better fit into its local surroundings, was quite uncommon for this era. While the hotel still stands and still operates, its trademark colorful squares were removed during contemporary renovations of the property.


Skopje, North Macedonia

A vintage postcard view of Motel Belvi in Skopje, North Macedonia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Positioned right off of the A2 motorway within the suburban outskirts east of the Skopje city center is a motel complex originally named "Motel Belvi", built to service not only the city's tourist industry but also the speedy traveling motorists on long journeys (a growing demographic in the early 70s in Macedonia). Unveiled in 1971, this complex was designed by notable Czech architect Luděk Kubeš (along with assistance from the Russian brother architects Mihail & Andrej Tokarev). Kubeš himself had actually himself been in Skopje since 1947 (just after WWII), as he had been invited by the Skopje's governing authorities to help formulate an urban plan for the city. In his work on redeveloping post-war Skopje, Kubeš created not only a regulatory plan for the city, but also apartment blocks, restaurants, civic centers, among other projects. After the 1963 Skopje earthquake, "Motel Belvi" was the one major reconstruction project that Kubeš undertook. The form of the hotel is characterized by a simply boxy 6-level L-shaped tower at its core, which, in its original appearance, had a series of charismatic yellow-painted balconies on its two thin edges. Around the base of this tower is a arrangement of facilities that includes two restaurants, a cafe, a bar/lounge, a bowling alley, a conference center, a ball room, among other amenities. For a motorway motel, it was a surprisingly luxuriant accommodation that was expertly designed and hosted an extremely modernist architectural aesthetic in both its interior and exterior appearance. However, the most fascinating aspect of the motel's design was the expansive artificial lake and park setting created in the space surrounding the complex, which hosts gazebos, outdoor dining pavilions, fountains and peaceful lake pathways. Over the years, the Motel Belvi has undergone significant renovations and changes to its original appearance, however, some of the Yugoslav-era aesthetics and design elements still exist within the complex here and there. Today, it is operated as a four-star accommodation by the American-based "Best Western" hotel chain (called "Best Western - Hotel Bellevue" and is in very good condition, acting as a popular conference center and wedding venue.


Novi Pazar, Serbia

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Vrbak in Novi Pazar, Serbia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Situated in the Sandžak region of southwestern Serbia, with the small River Ljudska running right through the center, is the vibrant community of Novi Pazar. At the center of the town stands a unique and visually distinct complex, Hotel Vrbak. Unveiled in 1977 and created by local architect Tomislav Milovanović (and funded by the local hospitality/catering cooperative “Lipa”), Hotel Vrbak stands as a charismatic example of early postmodernism in Yugoslavia, with its flamboyant playful architecture reminiscent of the “Arabian Nights”, which has led to some to refer to the complex as “Scheherazade”. One possible explanation for this very Islamic-inspired architecture is that the vast majority of the population of Novi Pazar is Muslim. Meanwhile, the name of the hotel itself “Vrbak” means “Willow Grove” in Serbian, and is taken from the name of an old pre-WWII restaurant that stood at this location along the river along a grove of willows. This hotel subsequently became one of the most significant landmarks in Novi Pazar and a symbol of the town’s Yugoslav-era modernization. In the post-Yugoslav era, the hotel was subject to privatization, which has resulted in its ownership changing hands several times, however, unlike many other modernist hotels of this era, Hotel Vrbak continues to retain many of its original fixtures and elements, making it an important time capsule for the interior design and architecture of this period.


Pljevlja, Montenegro

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Pljevlja in Pljevlja, Montenegro. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

High in the Dinaric Alps, in the northern-most part of Montenegro, along the banks of the Breznica River is the scenic mountain town of Pljevlja. At the center of the town, just across from the Husein Pasa Mosque, is the aptly-named Hotel “Pljevlja”. Created in 1975 by the local architect Bajo Mirković, who was one of the most significant architects for the town (having created over a dozen buildings in the community), the center tower of Hotel “Pljevlja” is crafted in a distinct elevated A-frame style that contains as its primary exterior flourish numerous pointy rooflines and dormers, imparting upon the structure a playfully rustic aesthetic. As the city architect of Pljevlja, Mirković wished to avoid the uniformity of the city’s built landscape, as such, looked outside the box of 1970’s era modernism. In this way, his inspiration in crafting the form of this hotel derived from such things as local folk architecture (such as shepherd mountain huts), the traditional embroidery of the region, as well as the distinct arches of the adjacent Husein Pasa Mosque. During the Yugoslav-era, the complex became one of the most pivotal symbols of the town and, to this day, is considered by many in the town to be the community’s most important architectural landmark of the 20th century. Hotel “Pljevlja” continues to operate up to the present day, with its original exterior architecture still largely intact. However, much of its interior fixtures and fittings were removed during renovations during the 2000s.


Zenica, BiH

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Metalurg in Zenica, BiH. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

Located in the center of Zenica along the Bosnia River is a complex that was originally known as "Hotel Metalurg". Unveiled on April 12th, 1962 (the WWII Liberation Day of the city), this impressive hotel was designed by famous Sarajevo architect Juraj Neidhardt and instantly became one of the prime landmarks of Zenica, signaling its modernity and rapid progressive development. With 170 beds and 10 floors, it was the tallest building in the city upon its completion and contained a huge amount of amenities for the local population. Being that Neidhardt was a student of Le Corbusier, such influence can readily be seen in the architecture of the hotel, with its flat tower & horizontal pavilion akin to Le Corbusier's UN Building in New York and the brightly colored panels reminiscent of the Unité d'Habitation in France. Interestingly, the architecture of this complex can also be compared to the Vitić Tower in Zagreb, built during the same era by Šibenik architect Ivan Vitić. In 2008, the hotel was privatized and acquired by new owners, at which point the usage of the tower was changed to business offices, during which time the interior was overhauled and no remnants of its original interior design remain. Meanwhile, a smaller hotel facility was built right in front of it called "Hotel Dubrovnik".

 



Negotino, North Macedonia

A vintage postcard view of Avion Restaurant in Negotino, North Macedonia. Source: Spomenik Database postcard archive

In the southern region of what is today known as North Macedonia, adjacent to Kavadarci, is the community of Negotino. Within that town was originally found a playful and unique dining destination known as “Avion Restaurant”. Opened in 1969 and operated by “Makedonija Komerc”, the restaurant consisted of an elevated Douglas DC-6B airplane (or perhaps an Ilyushin 14, it's hard to tell) that served as the primary component of the dining area. Sources relate that this was one of only three such restaurants that operated in the world during this time. Meanwhile, news articles relate that the plane was sourced from a JAT airlines flight that sustained significant damage during a landing in Skopje and, therefore, was repurposed by the “Negotino Hotel” (today “Hotel Park”). The distinct paint job of the 1950s/60s-era JAT airlines can still be seen on the plane. The restaurant was located directly next to the hotel that was situated right along the main A1 motorway between Skopje and the Greek border. It became a popular destination, largely with tourists who saw the charismatic attraction as they passed on the motorway. It ceased operations in the 1980s and by the 1990s, it was it very poor shape. As such, it was at this point that it was cut up for scrap. While the hotel still exists, no traces of Avion Restaurant remain.


Bihać, BiH