Zeljava Air Base and Spomenik Grmec
Today we visited the scariest location I have ever been to. The Zeljava Air Base was a strategic location on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for the JNA, the Yugoslavia National Army. The military compound consisted of a series of tunnels dug deep into the tallest mountain in the area, a large compound of storage units, barracks, administration buildings, and guard towers, as well as a large satellite and missile tracking facility. The compound was abandoned and largely destroyed as the JNA retreated after the mid-90’s war.
We arrived at the site to the welcome of abandoned aircraft, mine warning signs, and the erie silence that accompanies the vacant infrastructure of past war. Although the sun was out and spring was in bloom, our heart rates were pulsing with fear from the moment we turned off the highway. With foreboding signs warning of latent land mines and others ‘strictly forbidding entrance, observation, or photographing’ of the area we stuck to paved surfaces and didn’t linger there for long.
We left with an impression of the deep-seeded scars of fear that the horrors of war leaves. These painful memories are embodied in the structures and landscape where the events took place.
Driving on, we reached Spomenik Grmec a few hours later. Two massive upturned concrete domes face each other, deep in the forest of Bosnia. The spherical volume between the two halves of the monument is split only by an arc of sky that widens to conifers towards the ground. Still filled with a bit of paranoia from our earlier visit, we make quick work of sketching and photographing the spomenik, and move on to the beautiful castle town of Jajce where we spend the night.