It’s pretty hard to travel through Balkan countries without someone mentioning the war. Now I should say if you are over there, you NEVER EVER mention the war! They’ve got long memories – and it’s just as likely to set off another war before you know it.
Of course if you like looking at military artifacts and a bit of history then you’ll certainly find it. Now I have to admit, liking more of the outdoorsy sort of things, this was not my cup of tea but the boys on the bus got pretty excited when they saw tanks up ahead.
We were on our way to Plitvice National Park on what I had nicknamed The Venga Bus – a Bus-about Backpacker bus headed across eastern Europe. (If you think that doesn’t sound like it would appeal to Scott you’d be 100% correct – but for a quiet 41 year old stuck on a bus of partying 20 year olds he actually did okay.. and I got to re-live my college days!)
But boys of any age get excited when they see a tank and some buildings that look like they got blown up.
This was actually our second tank stop, having pulled up early one drizzly morning just over the border of Slovakia where we were met by a crazy ex major and his two modified tanks – and got to go bashing through the Slovakian bush!
You really shouldn’t hop in a tank with a driver who’s got the crazy eyes!
But I digress. This time we were stopped at Karlovac and the open air military museum. Technically known as The Croatian War of Independence Museum.
Not really a happy place to visit – but it does you a bit of insight into Croatia’s turbulent history.
When we went in 2012 it was very basic – it was as if a whole lot of tanks and planes had just been left there, near buildings that had been destroyed during the war. It’s now being upgraded to have displays and an undercover museum. It’s actually set up on the battlefield which saw some of the heaviest action during the Homeland War.
Wandering around the site you can find a MiG-21 from World War II, aircraft wrecks, tanks and amroured transports, all used during the war.
The town of Karlovac has an interesting history
The geostrategic, military and political position of Karlovac determined its role throughout history. The city was first established as a military fortress in 1579, and presented the last line of defence against the Ottoman conquerors. During the Homeland War, the city constituted the front line of defence against the Serbian aggression, and presented the key strategic point in Croatian defence which, if overrun, would make it possible for the aggressor to cut off one part of the Croatian territory. The position of the city at the beginning of the war was additionally made harder because of numerous JNA military barracks and other military object situated in the city and the surrounding area.
The attacks on the city began in the summer of 1991 from occupied areas of Banovina and Kordun where members of local troops of Territorial Defence “SAO Krajina” were soon aided by incoming JNA brigades from Serbia. A large number of refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina poured into Karlovac during the war. In August 1994, there were 17.477 refugees and displaced persons in Karlovac County alone. All of them received much needed help, accommodation and food.
In the military Operation “Storm” all of the occupied areas of Karlovac County were liberated. On the last day of the operation Turanj and Tušilović were also liberated. In the entire county, the war left behind devastated areas, hundreds of dead and wounded people, cities and villages destroyed, and many of the cultural heritage sites devastated of damaged. A total of 26.347 pieces of anti-armour and antipersonnel landmines were identified in the Karlovac County area and it is presumed that a significant number of mine-fields with unknown number of mines are yet to be identified.
I really do need to watch where we walk on our holidays.. we have a bad habit of being places where there are old mine-fields that may or may not have been cleared out – Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Croatia, Bosnia…
Needless to say – the boys loved this stop but we eventually got them bundled back on to the bus to head off to our campsite in Plitvice National Park
Hope you enjoyed this adventure and are inspired to get out and see some of this beautiful rock we live on.
Til next time