In Croatian, Spomenik means 'monuments'. In English-language media, it commonly refers to a loosely connected scattering of monuments built in the former Yugoslavia.
Hauntingly beautiful, their spacey aesthetic has spurned a zillion Internet articles with headlines like ‘You won't believe these alien structures aren't from the future!!!'
The structures are indeed fantastic examples of socialist-era futurism, but they’re also powerful political symbols.
Jasenovac Flower (designed by Bogdan Bogdanovic in 1966) is located at the former site of the Jasenovac concentration camp in Slavonia, where tens of thousands of people were killed by the Croatian Ustaše fascist regime.
The gigantic concrete and steel structures are scattered across the rolling countryside of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
Their futuristic aesthetic sets them up as ripe objects of curiosity; internet bric-a-brac, divorced from their original meanings.
Refreshing, then, to see the brilliant travel guide Atlas Obscura launch a new tour of these monuments. The first tour of its kind, they aim to treat these monuments with the respect they deserve, and 'honour them not as political symbols, but rather as extraordinary works of art commemorating events that should never be forgotten.'
The tour, which costs €2,970, has already sold out. The route traverses Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. Starting in Belgrade, the first stop is Tito’s mausoleum, known as the House of Flowers, and the Jabuka Memorial Park in Serbia.
In Croatia, the tour stops off at Vukovar, the Dudik Memorial Park, Slavonski Brod, Jasenovac; the Monument to the Revolution of the People of Moslavina, Zagreb, Petrova Gora Memorial and Plitvice National Park.
The trip encompasses a little-visited site: Vukovar’s old water tower, a symbol of Croatian resistance during the civil war.
Riding a wave of Yugo-nostalgia, New York’s MoMA new exhibition ‘Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980’ launches around the same time.
Meanwhile, EU funding will spruce up Tito’s rusting yacht in Rijeka, turning the ship into a museum and tourist attraction in time for the city's turn as a European Capital of Culture in 2020.