Inside Croatia’s abandoned haven of hedonism: The derelict remains of Haludovo Hotel, the once-decadent resort owned by a US porn baron and frequented by Saddam Hussein

Dozens of ruined and dilapidated former state-owned hotels, casinos and resorts line Croatia’s jeweled Adriatic coast, abandoned after the Yugoslav Wars.

But there is one with a particularly happy history – the Haludovo Hotel.

In the 1970s it was a haven of hedonism. Conceived and filmed by Bob Guccione, one of America’s most infamous porn barons, it featured hostesses in corsets called ‘Penthouse Pets’ flinging around and bringing guests champagne. Saddam Hussein would stay in the master suite.

Now it’s graffiti-strewn and debris-riddled, a building code nightmare.

But while the former palace of ‘Peace and Porn’ is a decaying shell, many curious tourists still make a pilgrimage to its remains, on the sun-drenched island of Krk, to capture its desolate grandeur in photographs. Haludovo is almost as fascinating a structure in decay as it was when it was a swinging focal point.

Haludovo Hotel, on the island of Krk in Croatia, was built in the late 1960s to be a decadent pleasure palace for American tourists and the glitterati

Haludovo Hotel, on the island of Krk in Croatia, was built in the late 1960s to be a decadent pleasure palace for American tourists and the glitterati

Haludovo Hotel was conceived and financed by porn czar Bob Guccione

Haludovo Hotel was conceived and financed by porn czar Bob Guccione

The lavish estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini-soccer field and mini-golf, as well as water-skiing, paragliding and diving centres, several swimming pools and a bowling alley.

The lavish estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini-soccer field and mini-golf, as well as water-skiing, paragliding and diving centres, several swimming pools and a bowling alley.

In the 1960s, Guccione – founder of Penthouse Magazine, the first American publication with full-frontal nudity – dreamed of building a lavish resort in Malinska, Krk, consisting of luxury hotels and a huge casino, to wealthy American clients to socialist Yugoslavia largely ignored.

It was a smart business decision: although the country had casinos for tourists, the people of Yugoslavia were forbidden to gamble in them. As a result, casinos went largely untaxed.

Guccione hoped wealthy American tourists would go to Krk to gamble away their money at his hotel, where he could hire locals to work without any US employment regulations in play.

In a 1972 interview with Radio Free EuropeGuccione said he believed his resort would be a “real formula in the fight against the Cold War” and claimed it would help humanize the socialist Croats in the eyes of Americans and vice versa.

Guccione has sunk $45 million (about $376m/£296m in modern currency) into the development of the property and the casino (under the ownership of the Croatian enterprise group Brodokomerc), which Boris Magaš, one of the most celebrated Croatian architects of the twentieth century, employed. , to design the complex. At the time, the hotel was strikingly modern: now architects consider it a classic example of the Brutalist style.

The Haludovo Hotel, designed by celebrated Croatian architect Boris Maga¿, is considered by architects to be a classic example of Brutalist architecture

The Haludovo Hotel, designed by celebrated Croatian architect Boris Magaš, is considered by architects to be a classic example of Brutalist architecture

A 1972 advertisement for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a 'mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings (which) will become a premier playground for international connoisseurs'

A 1972 advertisement for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a ‘mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings (which) will become a premier playground for international connoisseurs’

The Haludovo Hotel pool in the 1970s.  One story – possibly apocryphal – maintains that for one particularly debauched party the pool was filled with champagne

The Haludovo Hotel pool in the 1970s. One story – possibly apocryphal – maintains that for one particularly debauched party the pool was filled with champagne

A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, the Haludovo is quite a dangerous site

A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, the Haludovo is quite a dangerous site

It took four years to build, and The Haludovo Palace Hotel and Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino opened to great fanfare in 1972. A 1972 advertisement for Haludovo in Penthouse magazine described the resort as a ‘mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings (which) will become a premier summer and winter season playground for international connoisseurs’.

Every inch of the complex is designed for relaxation, pleasure and decadence: from glittering chandeliers to poolside cocktail service and from a bowling alley to fashionable ‘conversation pits’.

The lavish estate had 17 tennis courts, a mini-soccer pitch and mini-golf, as well as water-skiing, paragliding and diving centres. One story – possibly apocryphal, but beautiful to believe – flows that one of his many pools was constantly filled with champagne.

Above is Bob Guccione.  A friend calls Haludovo one of 'a succession of colossally ill-advised business ventures' by Guccione

Above is Bob Guccione. A friend calls Haludovo one of ‘a succession of colossally ill-advised business ventures’ by Guccione

During its first year, guests reportedly consumed 100 kg (224 lb) of lobster, 5 kg (11 lb) of caviar and hundreds of bottles of champagne every day. Penthouse ‘Pets’ – Guccione’s take on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Bunnies – were flown in from the States and looked after guests dressed in skimpy French maid dresses. Although you might assume that these ladies were hired to titillate, Guccione insisted on one publication they were part of his plan for East-West reconciliation, calling them ‘the peacekeeping forces of the new world’.

In its heyday, the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene and ordinary citizens. Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo’s most notorious guests.

According to Croatian publication The Balkanist, on one occasion The Butcher of Baghdad ‘famously left a $2,000 tip for a particularly agreeable pet’. It was also rumored that he had to delay his flight back to Baghdad ‘because his son had forgotten a golden pistol under a pillow in his suite’.

What Haludovo didn’t do, however, is make money: in 1973 it declared bankruptcy due to its exorbitant operating costs, although it managed to stay open over the next two decades (Guccione bled money into the property, part of which a friend called ‘ a succession of colossally ill-advised business ventures‘) until 1991, when Yugoslavia was ravaged by civil war.

What was once a bolthole for the glitterati became a literal haven: families displaced by the war were housed in the now-defunct hotel during the war. Distraught when they were unceremoniously evicted from the property at the end of the war, many refugees stripped Haludovo of any item of value imaginable: pipes, radiators, copper wiring and electrical sockets.

Strangely beautiful: Extensive graffiti in the entrance of the former Haludovo Hotel.  Photo credit: Foodbaby

Strangely beautiful: Extensive graffiti in the entrance of the former Haludovo Hotel. Photo credit: Foodbaby

The hotel was converted into a refuge for people who lost their homes in the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s

The hotel was converted into a refuge for people who lost their homes in the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s

In its heyday, the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene and ordinary citizens

Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo's most notorious guests

In its heyday, the resort was a meeting point for global dictators and politicians, American weekend gamblers, the Yugoslav music scene and ordinary citizens. Saddam Hussein was one of Haludovo’s most notorious guests

The sun-soaked island of Krk.  A bridge connects the Adriatic site with the mainland

The sun-soaked island of Krk. A bridge connects the Adriatic site with the mainland

In 1995, the hotel was privatized, and the investor then carved up the large estate and sold it piece by piece. Although parts of the hotel reopened to guests, it never regained its former opulent patina or clientele. The last recorded guests visited in 2002.

Since then it has fallen into more and more disrepair. A shadow of its former glory, although it attracts curious tourists and photographers, this defunct pleasure palace is quite a dangerous site.

The Balkanist said: ‘Heaps of broken glass cover the floor. Large pieces of the concrete staircase broke off and fell to the ground below. Floors buckle. The skylights were all shattered, and pieces of jagged windowpane were left above.

A long trail of blood leads up two flights of stairs to the upper floor. And then there are the disturbing labels, probably written by high school students, but still disturbing: ‘DIE HELP ME HELP ME’ and Saxa loquuntur, which is Latin for “the stones speak”.’