Part 10: Željava Air Base, Croatia

by | Apr 22, 2016

After we visited the Plitvice Lakes I told my girlfriend that we would drive to another location. I also told her that there probably would be no other tourists, but I kept the location as a surprise.

Thanks to Michael, whom I met in Germany when I started this tour, I know about a former Yugoslavian airbase on the Croatian – Bosnian border. It was the largest underground airport and military airbase in Yugoslavia.

We arrived at the airbase and were very impressed by how quiet and deserted it was. There was nobody and it looked like a big playground… if only the “DANGER! MINES!” signs would not have been there. I am not kidding. You will see those signs more in Bosnia and Herzegovina but at this place they nowadays train dogs to find actual landmines. It is the real deal, do not go anywhere besides the asphalt!

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One of the first things we notice is the opening in the mountain. This opening is the exact shape of the planes that had to go in the mountain and outside the mountain is directly the start of the landing strip.

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This is the view a pilot would have while leaving the airbase:

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And this would be the view the pilot would have when landing an airplane. The airbase is in the mountain:

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And I take a photo of us together as well, because we will not see each other a lot this year. I am very happy that we had the opportunity to see each other now.

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The actual Croatian – Bosnian border is where you see this container (see below) and the concrete blocks. We do not go further than the sign because I expect that there will be camera’s or alarms.

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We drive back to the landing strip and a few minutes later we see a car entering the airbase. “Ah, we are not the only tourists.” Well… when the car gets a little bit closer I know that I should better park and turn off the bike. “Your passports please!” asks the border police officer. We show them our passports and the vehicle registration. They write everything down and tell us that everything is ok. We are allowed to be there. We also have a nice conversation about my trip and they wish us all the best. Pfew! I did not like their surprise visit. I have to admit that I first thought that we might have done something wrong, which was luckily not the case. Later I found out that the airbase is often used by illegal immigrants to get inside the EU.

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These “DANGER! MINES!” signs are everywhere:

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A couple of hundred meters before the entrance of the airbase we saw this airplane. It is a Douglas C-47 airplane and you can climb into it. (I am pretty sure that you should not, but you can)

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We decide this would be a good moment to drive back to Zadar. We have dinner on our way back and it already becomes dark outside. I am not a fan of driving in the dark in foreign countries but at least enjoyed every minute of our day. It was pitch black when we got back to Zadar. From tomorrow on it will rain. It will not be fun to go touring on the motorcycle and we will probably stay in the city. We are curious how Zadar looks like, because it obviously is “European Best Destination 2016″… We will find out tomorrow!

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Thank you for reading!

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