Zeljava Airbase – 2014
During times of war mankind is capable of building the most extreme and immense structures to defend what they believe in. Throughout the world you can find the most unbelievable keeps that have been abandoned after the times of peril. The mega-structures lose their purpose and new technologies often make them obsolete. Governments see no more use for them and the one super-secret bases are left to rot.
One of those structures fairly close to our home is Zeljava Airbase in Croatia. Construction started in 1948 and it took twenty years to complete it. It was once the largest underground airport in Europe. The complex itself wasn’t an airport solely, it was also a hidden keep in case of airstrikes or even worse, atomic bombs and could withstand a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb similar to the one that fell on Nagasaki. It had an own underground water supply and within the base there were enough supplies to house and feed over a 1.000 people for a duration of 30 days without resupplying. After the Yugoslavian war, the base got into decay when the YPA deliberately destroyed the runway with explosives. In 1992 the Serbian military completely demolished the airbase from within.
The remains are left there and it has become quite a popular site for travelers. We went there in 2014 to have a peek at the aircraft and the tunnels that are open for sightseeing. However, it is not without danger that one can stroll around there. The area around Zeljava hasn’t been cleared of mines and I would suggest caution everywhere around the border of Bosnia/Croatia.
I read about Zeljava and I remembered that it was on the border with Bosnia, so naturally I assumed that it was located in Bosnia. Wrong. Yes, judge me if you want, I’m not thebest in writing and tracking down everything I want to see during a trip. So Bart and I searched the border of Bosnia near Klokot for hours until we finally saw something that looked like an abandoned runway. To be fair, I was a little bit scared. I’ve read about the border police and that they weren’t that friendly if they caught you. But Bart pushed through and eventually we were stopped by a cord hanging from the trees over the path. It clearly stated that we could NOT go any further, but the airbase was just some kilometers away. We turned back and later we discovered that that line was the actual border of Bosnia and Croatia on the runway so we were pretty glad that we didn’t cross it. In the evening we found some wifi and found out that the entrance to the base was in Licko Petrovo Selo in Croatia. So now you know what to type in your sat nav.
In the morning we found the base fairly easy, at first you’ll pass the three airplanes that were left and then you can continue towards the entrances of the airbase. Most of those have been destroyed and the debris blocks the entrance to the tunnels. If you’re a bit of a cave investigator it shouldn’t be a problem for you. When making our way to the tunnels we saw a fast moving vehicle racing on the runway towards us. It was the border police. What was I happy that we didn’t cross that border illegally yesterday! They asked our papers and identification and what our purpose here was. Overall they were quite friendly and it seemed in my opinion that they just had a blast racing up and down the runway all day when they saw movement near the base. We were warned that the tunnel closest to the border was instable but that everything else was safe to explore if we stayed on the paved roads.
Zeljava was really worth the search for us, it’s an eerie place in the end but it’s part of our European history and should not be forgotten. It was thrilling to find the airplanes and crawl into them. I’m curious how long it will take before Croatia will start renovating this site and make it a museum, I’m sure they will in the end.
P.S. Pictures are from 2014 before we had some really good equipment, hope you still enjoyed them