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Brioni Minor fortress from air

Mali Brijun Island and K.U.K. Fortress Brioni Minor

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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.

Pula in austrian times
Pula in austrian times with view of the main promenade

Here are some views of Pula on the old postcards from the Austrian times.

Old postcard of KuK Pula with kriegsmarine fleet
Old postcard of KuK Pula with kriegsmarine fleet
Old postcard of KuK Pula with scenes from military navy life
Old postcard of Pula
KuK war ships in harbor of Pula
K.u.K war ships in harbor of Pula

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.

Brijuni harbor and hotels in the early 1900s
Brijuni harbor and hotels

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.

Brioni Minor floor plan from September of 1902
Brioni Minor floor plan from September of 1902
Brioni Minor floor plan from September of 1902
Brioni Minor floor plan from September of 1902
Detailed cannons positions of Brioni Minor fortress
Detailed cannons positions of Brioni Minor fortress

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.

Brijuni national park motor boat
Brijuni national park motor boat

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.

Muflon sheep on Mali Brijun Island
Muflon sheep on Mali Brijun Island
Entering the Brioni Minor fortress
Entering the Brioni Minor fortress

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.

Part of the power generator room with original machinery
Part of the power generator room with original machinery
Power generator room at Brioni Minor fortress
Second power generator room
Storage for chairs for Ulysses Theater shows
Storage for chairs for Ulysses Theater shows

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.

Canon posts at Brioni Minor fortress
Canon posts
K.u.K. canons on Brioni minor fortress still in place
K.u.K. canons on Brioni minor fortress still in place
K.u.K. canons on Brioni minor fortress still in place
Ready to defend the Empire!
K.u.K. canons on Brioni minor fortress made in 1898
Made in 1898.

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/

Brion Minor fortress from the air
Brion Minor fortress from the air

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.

Brambles and ivy entering rooms
Brambles and ivy entering rooms
Steps at the fortress
Steps at the fortress
Auditorium at Brioni Minor for theater shows
Auditorium at Brioni Minor for theater shows
Entering ammunition depots at Brioni Minor fortress
Entering ammunition depots at Brioni Minor fortress

Like in all of Brijuni islands, Mali Brijun has some exceptional beaches. And, best of all, there are hardly ever any other people.

One of the beaches of Mali Brijun
One of the beaches of Mali Brijun

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!

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