Dancing with ghosts at the Hotel Bijela Kuća
Abandoned and left to rot, this Tito-era hotel comes to life every July during an annual street art and music festival.
Hotel Bijela Kuća commands the best views in Bol. Perched above a small pebbly beach on the eastern edge of town, it enjoys uninterrupted vistas across across dazzling azure waters to the wooded hills of Hvar, just to the south.
You can’t stay there, sadly. It was abandoned when tourists stopped coming to the island of Brać during the Balkan Wars. In the early nineties it was used to house refugees. But when the war ended and they moved on, it was stripped of anything valuable and left to fall into disrepair.
In its hey-day it was quite the place. British singer Julian Perris remembers his time as the ‘resident entertainer’ in 1984.
‘It was my job to make sure everyone was having a good time,’ he remembers.
‘Holiday by Madonna was the big hit at the time. I used to sing along to very basic backing tapes in a stone hut down by the beach. I must have been OK because it became known as ‘Julian Hut’!’
Julian made a little extra money selling shells to British and German tourists.
‘The locals couldn’t believe anyone would buy them,’ he says. ‘But life was so much more simple then. The water was clean and blue. The locals were incredibly friendly and hospitable. And I was treated like a celebrity in town. What more could a young guy ask for?’
There’s always talk of the hotel reopening. But a dispute with the Dominican Monks in the nearby monastery is complicating negotiations.
The hotel had originally been a Dominican school, you see, and the monks were forced to sell it by greedy Communist officials keen to turn a quick profit.
Now the monks want it back.
In the meantime, the ruins provide an atmospheric canvas for street art, painted by artists who gather here every July for Graffiti Na Gradele.
For five days each year the hotel becomes a hive of activity. Streets artists come from all over the world to paint over last year’s efforts and create new masterpieces of their own.
There are workshops for local kids, Hip-Hop concerts and even rap battles.
And then the hotel goes silent again, but for the sound of a breeze murmuring in the pine trees.
And the monks chanting in their 12th century chapel at the end of the beach.
Main image: The abandoned reception area in the Hotel Bijela Kuća hotel in Bol (© Peter Moore)