There are some spectacular remains of former Austro-Hungarian military still present in Croatia. Many have been continuously used by all armies after the disintegration of the K.u.K. monarchy. K.u.K. stands for Kaiserlich Und Königlich (German: Imperial and Royal). Some of the finest military structures and buildings are still left in Pula region and Brijuni Islands. The town was the main military harbor of Kriegsmarine (military navy) since the early 1800s. Pula, at those times, was a prosperous military town with numerous wonderful buildings and important military installations servicing the fleet.
Here are some views of Pula on the old postcards from the Austrian times.
Defense fortresses of Pula Harbor and Brijuni Islands
As the harbor was a very important one, the Austrians also built a circle of defense fortresses surrounding the Pula harbor. The construction started in the early 1800s and continued for the next 100 years. Till the very end of the Monarchy. The military planners designed, and built, 3 rings of defense surrounding Pula. Numerous fortresses are still in great shape as they were continuously used till the fall of Yugoslavia in 1990s. One of the most impressive is the fortress Brioni Minor on Mali Brijun Island.
Brijuni, at that time, were already part of the grand project by the Austrian industrial magnate Paul Kupelwieser (1843-1919) who bought the islands, in 1893, and transformed them into an exclusive summer resort.
Numerous fortresses used to be connected by a network of underground tunnels. One legend says that even the islands used to be connected to the mainland fortress by one such tunnel!
Brioni Minor fortress
Brini Minor is one the largest late 1800s fortresses built in the Adriatic. The original floor plans show all the careful planning.
Visiting Brioni Minor today
Brijuni are a National Park area today and completely protected. Only Veliki Brijun Island is open to general public and special permission is needed to get to Mali Brijun Island. We had park rangers accompany us by boat to the island and then we explored with our guide.
Mali Brijun Island is packed with muflon sheep! There are about 1000 of them all over the island. Not too afraid of the visitors either.
Inside the Brioni Minor Fortress
Fortress is in great condition and numerous original details are still in place. However, it has been stripped of all the furniture and decor. The hallways and empty rooms give a bit of a spooky feeling. Just the way it is supposed to be in this 100+ years old fortress.
The entire fortress is quite atmospheric. Since I love abandoned buildings, this was a dream of mine for a long time. It did not disappoint!
Most interesting part of the fortress are the actual K.uK. canons still in place just as they were back in the early 1900s. The canons have been built in 1898 as the date is still visible. There have been 20 canons altogether.
The fortress is 15.750 m2 in size and was accommodating 530 soldiers and 12 officers. There were 4 other fortresses on the islands but this was the biggest and most important one.
Today, fortress is not used by military but, during summer months, it is the home of a very special theater project called Ulysses Theatre. Here is their web page to learn more: http://www.ulysses.hr/en/
The fortress is quite impressive although it could be in better shape and better preserved so the ivy and the brambles are not creeping in the former sleeping rooms.
Like in all of Brijuni islands, Mali Brijun has some exceptional beaches. And, best of all, there are hardly ever any other people.
In so many ways, Brijuni National Park are one of the most beautiful and most interesting parts of our coast with numerous historic and natural treasures.
Surrounding Pula, a remarkable collection of fortresses still is pretty much hidden and not accessible to general public. Great for us looking for abandoned places but I am sure they can be put to a much better use!