The Balkans have a great and long history. This part of eastern Europe has passed through many different eras and this can still be felt today, when visiting. One of the most powerful signs of the region’s history remains in its many abandoned buildings, memorials and other strange places, dating back to the Yugoslavian era.
Even though Tito’s empire fell more than 20 years ago, these strange buildings and memorials, scattered all over the various countries of former Yugoslavia, are a great testimony to this time. And, what a great idea - to learn about the history in this part of the world through its buildings and monuments! Here are 15 of the most outstanding ex-Yugoslavian buildings and monuments found in the Balkans.
1. The Bells Park (Kambanite)
If you’re looking for an interesting sight in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Bells Park, or Kambanite, is a place that’ll fit your expectations. Situated in a park outside of Sofia’s city centre, like most of the monuments listed in this article, this memorial monument isn’t that easy to find but the reward is worth it.
The concept of this place, more than its great visual impact, is wonderful: inside the base of this tower, there is a bell from almost every country (around 95 bells), sent as a gift to Bulgaria and displaying messages of support for children all over the world. The bells are to serve as a reminder that every child deserves a good life.
The Bells Park (Kambanite)
Address: 1756 Sofia, Bulgaria
Website: The Bells Park (Kambanite)
2. Buzludzha Monument
Buzludzha is a 1,432 metre (4,698 feet) high mountain peak in Bulgaria, where the impressive House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party or, the Buzludzha Monument is based. Celebrating a battle between the Bulgarians and the Turks in 1868, the government in power during the Soviet influence decided to build a monument commemorating socialist communism. And what a monument!
Even after the regime collapse of the early 90’s, even abandoned and vandalized, this impressive, saucer-shaped building stands still atop the mountain like a watchtower. Who wouldn’t be tempted to have a look inside this incredible place? Even though it’s officially closed to the public due to lack of maintenance and potential danger, a walk around the exterior is well worth it.
Address: Central Stara Planina, Kazanluk 6100, Bulgaria
3. Bubanj Memorial Park
The Bubanj Memorial Park is a memorial complex built to commemorate the shooting and execution by invading German forces, of more than 10,000 citizens of Niš during World War II, in Serbia. Arranged as a park, the centrepieces of the site are a marble relief measuring 23 metres (75 feet) long by 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) high and also the three concrete obelisks that symbolize raised hands (of different sizes, representing men, women and kids arms) with clenched fists: the hands that defy the enemy.
Built-in concrete and in typically austere style, the structures are somewhat strange but beautiful - huge blocks of shaped rock in this green and quiet place.
Bubanj Memorial Park
Address: Niš, Serbia
Website: Memorial Park Bubanj
Kosmaj is a 626 metre (2050 foot) high mountain, south of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, displaying on its peak, the Kosmaj Monument. Made of six freestanding concrete structures of roughly 40 metres (130 feet) high, that, taken together look a bit like a spaceship, the monument celebrates a group of partisan fighters in World War II who battled against the Germans, losing over 5000 men during the fight.
Nowadays, like many other buildings in the area, this strange and impressive monument is falling into oblivion and collapse.
Address: Nemenikuće, Serbia
Website: Kosmaj monument
5. Avala Tower
The Avala Tower is a 204 metre (672 foot) tall telecommunications tower, located on Mount Avala, the second highest point in Belgrade. The original tower was finished in 1965 and destroyed on 23 April 1999, during the NATO bombing of Serbia. The new one officially opened on April 21, 2010, and is currently the tallest tower in the Balkans.
Its architecture is quite impressive, and it is a unique tower in that it is not built directly into the ground, but standing on its legs, forming a tripod, the symbol of the Serbian tripod chair. Together, with the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, it is one of the small number of towers to be constructed in this manner.
Address: Beli Potok, Serbia
Website: Avala Tower
6. Kadinjača Memorial
The Kadinjača Memorial is located in the village of the nearby city of Užice, in Serbia. Proclaimed a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, this impressive building is a reminder of the Communist Resistance Movement led by Tito during World War II, when his troops managed to create the so-called Uzice Republic, the first liberated territory in occupied Europe. This monument is a hymn to the later Yugoslavia socialist republic.
Address: Užice, Serbia
Website: Kadinjača’s memorial
7. Monument to the revolution of the people of Moslavina
No, Star Wars fans, this is not Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. The Monument to the revolution of the people of Moslavina, located in Croatia, seems to commemorate the birth of science fiction more than World War II. But, it was built in 1967, 10 years before the opus of the saga, to commemorate the 1941 uprising of the people of Moslavina, in Croatia.
More than an abandoned, stunning, spaceship-like structure, this monument is actually an impressive architectural feat.
Monument to the revolution of the people of Moslavina
Address: Podgarić, 43233, Podgarić, Croatia
8. Petrova Gora
In Petrova Gora, you’ll enjoy discovering the 37 metre (121 foot) high memorial to Mali Petrovac and the abandoned communications tower, which provides an excellent view of central Croatia. The monument is a masterpiece of monumental commemorative sculpture, you’ll love to discover.
Address: 47220, Selakova Poljana, Croatia
Website: Petrova Gora
9. Tjentiste War Memorial
One of the many monuments that dot the Bosnian landscape, the Tjentiste War Memorial was built in the 1970’s to commemorate a great battle of World War II. The two fractal walls of the abstract war memorial are constructed from bleak, grey cement, making this brutal construction a strange but impressive monument.
Tjentiste War Memorial
Address: Tjentište, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Website: Tjentiste War Memorial
10. Jasenovac Memorial
The Jasenovac Concentration Camp was one of the largest concentration camps in Europe, during World War II, also referred to as “the Auschwitz of the Balkans” or “the Yugoslav Auschwitz”. Nowadays, you can walk around this area and take a look at the strange but beautiful memorial building, a concrete, flower-like sculpture, standing in memory of the thousands of victims.
Address: Jasenovac, Croatia
Website: Jasenovac Memorial
11. Sanski Most Memorial
This building, in Sanski Most, Bosnia, is a memorial to the thousands of victims of the Axis occupation and oppression in the surrounding region and consists of a stainless steel flame-like obelisk, with approaching pathways, lined with stone tiles. After the fall of Yugoslavia, the memorial complex fell into disrepair and neglect.
Even though the Bosnian Serbs were in control of the area until 1995, the grass and vegetation have overtaken much of the monument complex and most of the bases of the structure have been robbed, making this commemorative building a ghostly and strange place to visit.
Sanski Most Memorial
Address: Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Website: Sanski Most Memorial
12. Monument to the Revolution in Mrakovica
This Monument to the Revolution is a World War II memorial sculpture, built in 1972, atop Mrakovica Mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This 33 metre (108 foot) high segmented tower is a cylindrical-shaped, weird but beautiful monument, built to honour the thousands of deaths of Yugoslav partisans who gave their lives for freedom during World War II.
Monument to the Revolution in Mrakovica
Address: Mrakovica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ilinden, also known as Makedonium is a monument in Kruševo, in the Republic of Macedonia, dating back to 1974. This bizarre, space-age monument looks like a heart valve and is a memorial complex and reminder of the creation of a free Macedonia.
Address: Krushevo, Macedonia (FYROM)
14. Ilirska Bistrica
The memorial monument of Ilirska Bistrica, in Slovenia, is dedicated to the fighters of the 4th Yugoslavian Army who liberated this area during WWII. Dating back to 1965, this 8 metre (26 foot) tall, hollowed out concrete cube, is held upright by nine internal tapering columns. Today, this monument remains in excellent condition, being well maintained and surrounded by well-kept landscaping. It’s a nice place to walk and check out this strange and interesting building.
Address: Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia
Website: Ilirska Bistrica
15. Trebjesa Memorial
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Like much of the rest of the Balkans, turmoil and conflict-hit Nikšić in 1941, when Italian forces invaded. This memorial resides within a massive and well-used public park, that follows around the south end of Trebjesa Hill.
Address: Nikšić, Montenegro
Website: Trebjesa Memorial
Discover the Balkans
With these great and strange architectural pieces, you’ll get an insight into what was the Yugoslavian period of the Balkans and you’ll like the weirdness and the sci-fi look of these memorial buildings, that will make you travel back in time.
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