Nowadays, the Croatian island of Krk is a popular destination. Wonderful beaches, resort towns, nice people. But few people know that the town of Malinska, located in the northern part of the island, is home to a hotel that was a symbol of luxury and gambling in the 70s. It attracted wealthier people from all over the world. Today, it has become one of the favorite places for disaster tourists.
The hotel was built in the fashionable brutalist style of the time, the plans were made by a Croatian (& Hungarian) architect, Boris Magas. The complex opened its doors to visitors on June 15, 1972.
The Haludovo Palace Hotel, located in a huge area, had everything you could expect from a luxury hotel, with excellent restaurants in the great main building, cool bars, pools, sauna, villas, and tennis courts among the lush hanging gardens. It is said that in the heyday of the restaurant, a hundred kilos of lobster, five kilos of caviar, and a hundred bottles of champagne were sold every day, and it sounds like an urban legend, but looking at the extravagance of the seventies, it would be absolutely believable that one of the pools was also filled with champagne.
Drinks were served by Penthouse hostesses in sexy uniforms, who often escorted guests from the airport, and this greatly contributed to the hotel’s popularity. According to Guccione, always a dreamer, these girls actually served world peace, creating a link between East and West. It is certain that guests came to the hotel from different parts of the world, such as the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who had an opinion about the great powers of the Cold War, or Saddam Hussein, who allegedly left a two thousand dollar tip with one of the hostesses, and his son forgot the tip under the pillow of the suite. golden pistol. The unbridled extravagance soon came at a price, the hotel went bankrupt just one year after the grand opening. Although it remained open for decades, it began to slowly decline and never shined in its original glory.
During the Cold War period, foreign investment in the gambling sector was rare in Eastern European countries. This fact soon changed when the former Yugoslavia opened its borders in 1967 and abolished the visa. Beyond the Iron Curtain, although it happened quite rarely, the country’s laws allowed betting, gambling, and the construction of casinos, as well as efforts to make such investments, with one condition: only tourists could participate in gambling, Yugoslavian citizens could not patronize the casinos. As a result of the new law, in 1973, 28 casinos were already operating in the territory of Yugoslavia at the time.
The owner of the American Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, also caught the attention of this possibility. In 1969, hoping that the place would attract a lot of wealthy American and British businessmen, he invested 45 million dollars in the construction of the Haludovo Palace Hotel, which was planned as a stunning seaside casino and hotel complex on the island of Krk.
So, Bob Guccione first came to the Yugoslav island of Krk in the late sixties, when he dreamed of opening a luxurious hotel and casino for wealthy Western tourists, bringing together Cold War enemies who would enjoy life together in the Adriatic empire. Guccione wanted more than anything to be recognized for something other than Penthouse, considered by many to be a porn magazine, and in the early 1970s, the conditions seemed ideal for realizing his plan. In 1970, the Fiume airport was opened, which was only a quarter of an hour away from Malinská on the island of Krk. The airport is said to have been part of the agreement between Guccione and Tito, who, as a regular communist dictator, adored the hedonistic life.
After the initial luxury and success, the number of Western guests, unfortunately, did not meet the expectations, mainly local and neighborhood visitors who came to the hotel, who according to the law could not use the casinos or participate in any gambling.
In Yugoslavia, however, they had no idea what to do with the gambling industry, which entered the country immediately after the opening to the West, so the casinos could operate tax-free for years, and the foreign owners could make a lot of money from them.
Of course, Yugoslav citizens were not allowed to enter these establishments, but the tables were particularly attractive to Western tourists, where the game was always arranged so that the guests did not lose too much. Sicilian-born Guccione, therefore, decided that it was finally time to play big and invested 45 million dollars, five times that in today’s value, in the construction of the Haludovo Palace Hotel and the Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino, which of course is officially owned by Fiume-based Brodokomerc, a Yugoslav state-owned was a company.
A 1973 law would have definitively put an end to the rise of the hotel and Guccione, according to which the existing casinos could operate under foreign ownership until August 1974, but until then a Yugoslav citizen had to be appointed as the operator of the place, in order to extend the operation of the hotel. The extension and the appointment of a new owner according to the law were not necessary, as the Penthouse Adriatic Club went bankrupt at the beginning of 1973.
After Guccione’s departure, the hotel was taken over by the Croatian company Brodokomerc and dropped the Penthouse label, so it only operated as the Haludovo Palace Hotel in the coming period. Overspending and luxury have ceased, but the place has retained its high-class character. Several internationally recognized people visited the institution, and it hosted musical events and cultural programs in later years. It was able to make a profit again and operated for roughly two more decades, but it never reached the level that Guccione initially dreamed of.
The last successful year of the hotel was in 1990, in 1991 the complex and Croatian tourism itself became victims of the South Slavic war. During the war, it served as a shelter, and after the war, an attempt was made to clean the place and evict the people who were staying there illegally. Most of the hotel has been demolished, and the refugees who stayed here almost took its equipment to pieces when they left.
The fact that the South Slavic civil war broke out in 1991 didn’t do the hotel any good either, Western tourists understandably avoided the country, and the hotel was used to house refugees. At the end of the war, they didn’t even want to move out, so when they were forced to do so, they smashed the rooms in their anger, smashed or took away everything that could be moved. It was privatized in the nineties, the hotel changed owners several times in dark shops, and according to the records, it last welcomed guests in 2002. Neither did Guccione, who once had a fortune of $400 million and lived in the largest, most extravagant apartment in Manhattan, but went bankrupt and died penniless in 2010. In the last twenty years, Haludovo has entered the path of destruction, and traces of this can be discovered by anyone who wants a little adventure instead of bathing.
In 1995, the Haludovo hotel was privately owned, at which time it was valued at 27 million euros. The following year, a businessman named Bozidar Androcec bought the area for an advance of 2 million euros, promising to repay the remaining amount periodically. Between 1996 and 1999, Androcec sold the hotel in 9 parts for a value of approximately 5.1 million euros, while he did not pay the previous owner.
The hotel welcomed its last guests in 2001.
For most of the 2000s, the building was owned by Ara Abramyan, an Armenian-Russian businessman, diamond trader, and Goodwill Ambassador, whose revival was not included in his plans, despite countless requests from the Croatian leadership. In 2008, he was finally freed from his property rights.
Many people could be blamed for the destruction of the place. The former owners of the place and the state point to each other, referring to Croatian finances and laws, and to those owners who did not invest a lot of money in the maintenance of the place.
The luxury hotel and casino, which once attracted businessmen and wealthy Westerners, today only attracts disaster tourists, but entering the hotel, with a little imagination, you can still experience the atmosphere of luxury at the end of the 20th century.
Under the wooden coffered ceiling, you could sit on circular sofas and sip cocktails in the bar, which was led down by a grandiose staircase. The former location of the reception, the kitchen, and the bowling alley can all be explored, it is interesting to think about what life was like here in the hotel’s heyday.
The terrace above the hall still has a wonderful view of the sparkling sea, it is not difficult to understand why Guccione decided to build a luxury hotel here.
Today, Haludovo is an interesting destination for tourists who are tired of bathing and want to discover something exciting. Of course, it is not officially open to the public, as the building is life-threatening, under the hanging ceiling, on the creaky stairs, in the debris and glass shards, it does not hurt to be careful, it is a wonder that the building is not more closed than this.
Today, there is hardly anything left of the hotel apart from its structure. The furniture is completely destroyed and thrown apart, and the glass and mirrors reaching to the ceiling are broken and lying on the floor. The rooms are empty, some were victims of arson by vandals. Here and there you can still find mattresses, structural elements reminiscent of furniture, broken plates and cups, and the uniforms of the hotel workers thrown on top of each other in a room in the basement. In terrible condition, of course. In the rooms that were presumably used as offices, you can still find old invoices, room service papers, and vouchers scattered on the floor.
Haludovo is not far from the beach in Malinska, a pleasant walk on foot. Its territory occupies a long stretch of beach with concrete sunbeds. Among the villas scattered in the grove, nature has now completely taken over, the hanging gardens are overgrown, and only traces of slag can be seen on the tennis court. The most striking sight is the prominent concrete roof of the spa building, which proclaims the former grandeur of the hotel staring up at the sky. Traces of the deliberate destruction of recent years are visible, but on closer inspection, for example, by the pattern of the tiles, we also see that the place was stylish and sophisticated in its time. The really impressive part of Haludovo is its main building, which can be seen far from the shore, the hall of which is still bathed in the Adriatic sunlight, but the huge glass panels overlooking the sea are missing, which made its atmosphere even more strange, almost creepy.
Nowadays, the hotel is also popularly used as a location for films and video clips. We can also find an example of this in Hungary, as part of the video for the song Termidor by the band Gustave Tiger was shot here.
What will become of the former Penthouse luxury hotel? The situation is not encouraging: the former owners of the property blame the unfavorable financial environment and the maze of state bureaucracy, and the government of the day blames the speculative owners who are not willing to invest. In any case, to save Haludovo, such an investment would be needed, which could only be seen in Dubai, not in a sleepy small town in Croatia, and the elevators and rooms would also be too small for today’s needs. By the way, a brand new five-star hotel was built next to the port of Malinska, which caters well to wealthy guests. And Haludovo, for lack of a better word, remains an interesting place, a memory of a bygone era, which is worth visiting when visiting the area.