BRIONI alias BRIJUNI ARCHIPELAGO
the south western coast of Istria Peninsula
The peninsula of ISTRIA
was under the Italian sovereignty between the two World Wars. There were
two access routes one by railway and the other by road that led from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
The railway started at Ljubljana (Slovenia)
to Postojna station at the boarder to Italy. At the rail crossing
one branch led to Rijeka (Fiume,
ital.) and the other one to Divaca rail crossing where it branched
of to Trst (Trieste,
ital.) and the other branch continued via Brest
(Buzet), Pazin, Kanfar to Vodnjan and Pula
(Pola, ital.). From City of Triest another railway line linked Koper,
Izola, Piran, Buje and Porec where it ended – this line doesn’t exists
anymore now. All afore mentioned railway lines were built by the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy before 1914. The only railway line that exists
today is with the connection to Pula
and with a link to Rijeka.
The map at left
shows ISTRIA Peninsula and a wide
line BRIJUNI alias Brioni
Archipelago on the map above is
the border between the Republics of
located north-west of not far away from the City of
at north of Croatia. At upper left is
of Pula. Pula (Pola) was an important harbor during
of Italian territory with City of
Triest at its right end.
of Austro-Hungarian monarchy and later
City of Rijeka (Fiume) is an
when Istria including Rijeka came under the Italian
harbor of northern Adriatic Sea
(right centre) now.
sovereignty that lasted
until end of World War II.
The main roads follow almost exactly the railway lines as the same
during Italian occupation of Istria.
At that times one could cross on road at Sušak
to Rijeka (Fiume,
ital.) over a wide bridge and that was the only second boarder crossing
from Yugoslavia to
Italian Istria. The road along Istria’s
eastern coast passes through Opatija (Abbazzia, ital.) ending at
Brestovo, where would cross Vela Vrata Channel by a ferry-boat to get
onto Cres Island.
Another road branch leads from Rijeka to
Pazin where it joined the main northern road continuing to Vodnjan and Pula
following to the same railway line. Thus, the main communication lines
passed in Istria across the central plateau with short side roads
leading to the cities on the Istrian western coast.
the Second World War ended in May 1945 a strong political hick hack
erupted regarding the Zones ‘A’ & ‘B’ at the north-west corner of Istria. In 1949 Brioni alias
Brijuni Archipelago was nominated the restricted zone and it became the
seaside residence of Marshal Tito. The war ruins on the Islands had been cleared and one
had started the restoration and extention works of the whole
infrastructure including communications and waterworks. The renovated
hotel buildings and the rejuvenation of parks brought back the
pleasantness pf staying on the Archipelago again. Two new large
buildings were constructed on Veli Brijun western shore known as “White
Villa” (1953) and “Brionka” (1957) for the State’s highly regarded
guests. The Yugoslav Government built a single-storey villa on the Vanga Island (Krasnica now) west of Veli Brijun Island for Marshal Tito’s personal use. On
southern part of Vanga an orchard and a vineyard had been put up that
contained an interesting wine cellar. During Tito’s times Vanga island
was a strictly prohibited zone and not accessible to tourists at all.
A part view of the famous AMPHITHEATRE
interior at Pula that is located next to the large Yacht
n the late 1950s I have visited several cities in Istria
like Koromacno and Pula as
well as Porec and Rovinj on these travels. The travelling was rather
tedious and I had to use bus services to reach these remote places on my
professional trips then. The tourist trade was not well developed yet
and the holidaying visitors stayed in old hotels built at times of
Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. These hotels existed mainly in places like
Opatija, Lovran or Pula but there were many camping places along the
coast for those who had they own transport means like cars that number
steadily rose as from 1950s. I joined the Croatian Society of Architects
and Civil Engineers in Zagreb on
a round trip of Istria in
spring of 1958. Coming from Pula we
had to bypass Fažana
near Vodnjan and stopped at Limski Kanal (Channel), where we enjoined a
perfect seafood and fresh oysters grown there. That was to be the closes
I came to Brijuni Archipelago until my first visit there in May 2002.
GEOGRAPHY and CLIMATE of BRIJUNI ARCHIPELAGO
Brijuni Archipelago is located off the western shore
and some 10km northwest of the town of Pula. BRIJUNI NATIONAL
has a total area of say 7.35km²
of that VELIKI (VELI) BRIJUN is the largest of all 14 islands with an
area of 555.77 hectares. The National Park Brijuni has been established
in 1983 and includes the surrounding sea thus covering a total area of
Mali Brijun is the closest one to Veli Brijun having an area of
107.28ha, all other 12 islands are much smaller like Krasnica (formerly
VANGA) of 19.85ha only.
maintain the same biological and geomorphologic characteristics of the
“Red Istria”. The shallow Fažana Channel is 12km wide suggesting that
the Brioni Archipelago was part of Istria
about ten thousand years ago. The ice thaw caused sea level to raise
creating islands final shape with their many furrows so that their total
coastline amounts to 46.4km. Veli Brijun coastline is 26.6km, for Mali
Brijun 8.2km and Krasnica (Vanga) 3km only. The shores are mostly low
and rocky and accessible due to their horizontal stratification. The
islands have horizontal or slightly inclined Cretaceous limestone strata
that are covered by thick layers of carbonate brown or red soil (thus
named "Red Istria”) in some places. Some of the bays have shingle and
Now-a-days view of Hotel NEPTUN with its
modern extension (right) and the old Boats House at left.
have the northern Mediterranean climate characteristic to Istria
west coast. The temperatures vary between 5.9°C
(January) and 23.2°C
during summer months - the mean annual temperature is 13.9°C. The
average annual precipitation is 817mm but the snow is rare. The specific
element of Istria
west coast is the rather high air humidity so that Brijuni have an
average relative air humidity of 76% that doesn’t fall below 70%. This
is important for the plants life on that part of Croatian coast whereas
it is lower for the rest of it particularly during the warmer
periods there. The rich indigenous flora has been largely improved by
Paul Kupelwieser in the early 1900s. When Marshal Josip Broz Tito choose
Vanga (1947) as his fleeting residence the Brijuni Archipelago became
the restricted zone and to be used by Tito’s visitors only.
FLORA and FAUNA of
fauna of the archipelago consists mostly of Mediterranean
and to lesser degree of the several sub- Mediterranean species.
The largest areas are covered by macchia thicket; grass in park’s areas
and with forested areas of Holm-oak trees with laurel and of
plantations of conifer on 18ha. Most of the Holm-oak and laurel woods
are found in the eastern part of Veli Brijun. There are some smaller
forests of broad-leaved phillyrea, strawberry
tree, laurustinus, myrtle
and tree heath. The
woods are full of almost impenetrable climbers like thorny smilax, fragrant
evergreen wild rose. Such
complete intermixed areas of Holm oak and laurel are the interesting
feature of the Brioni Archipelago found nowhere else along the Croatian Coast.
along two main alleys of old Holm Oaks and Pine trees, the ancient
Olive tree in background left.
The smaller islands are almost completely covered by macchia of
degenerated Holm-oak forest. On Veli Brijun macchia changed under the
influence of game animals that eat climbers with no thorns. Macchia of
some 8m height and too thick to look through grow on Peneda peninsula
(Veli Brijun) and on smaller islands like Vanga, Madona and Mali Brijun.
Besides domestic tree species there are many imported varieties of pines
named as stone, Aleppo, maritime and black, then cedar tree, Greek and Spanish fir, cypress, redwood, eucalyptus etc. Since 2nd
World War one have renewed and diversified the kinds of trees in parks
particularly when the Brioni Archipelago became restricted area as
Marshal Tito's residence.
cultivated landscapes are limited to the island of Veli Brijun and cover about 40% of
its total area. The best of park’s sections are around the hotels and
villas, the later mostly restricted to the public access yet. The
present open grassland and
landscaped areas stand for the abandoned farmland that had been obtained
by successful extinction of malaria sickness early in 1900s. Paul
Kupelwieser bought the Brioni Archipelago in 1893 and started the
demanding works to turn Veli Brijun island into a tourist resort.
Certain areas of macchia and low woods were cut down and one spared
larger and worthy trees including few groups of Holm-oak. These isolated
trees and ancient olive trees in some places mark clearings and vistas
today. Kupelwieser introduced few larger animals like deer that pick up
shoots and leaves at branches below 2m so the crowns look like
"umbrellas" as shaped by clippers.
millenium old olive tree on Veli Brijun island is declared the National
Monument that is surrounded by Holm Oaks and Pine trees mostof them
planted by Paul Kupelwieser and Alojz Chufar.
islands’ indigenous fauna had been lost on Veli Brijun in particular
after one introduced animals of game like deer, roe-deer, mountain sheep
(Muflon) and hare around 1900s as well as an ostrich farm that existed
there since 1910. During the past 30 years
one took more care about these animals and few more kinds were imported
like fallow and axis deer. In 1978 quarantine has been opened to take
care of some exotic animals like elephants, gazelles, antelopes, zebras,
llamas, camels etc. that Tito got as a present by his international
State’s guests. The acclimatization station became turned in a
zoo-garden with time but many of its enclosures are almost empty now.
On the grassland herbivores animals move around freely in a fenced-in
so called “safari park” at present. In the adjacent aviary one raises
partridge and quail, various parrots and cranes, black swans and
flamingos where as pheasants and peacocks live in the wild.
A large group of African zebras in a
unusual sorrounding of the Safari Park on Veli Brijun (left) and an
indigenous young donkey inspecting a plastic bag content at right.
are many indigenous birds and smaller islands are nesting places for
seagulls, terns, and doves. Brijuni
Archipelago is an important seasonal stopover for northern birds for
marsh birds is freshwater pond of Soline (Salina)
on Veli Brijun. Fishing is prohibited in Park’s wider sea areas with
exception of migratory fish swarms.
* * * * * *
comment as interlude:
Late in May 2002 we
travelled by car from Salzburg via Ljubljana to Buzet and from
Lupoglav to Pazin, Vodnjan on the Istria ‘Y’ new autobahn. At
Vodnjan we turned of onto a side road to reach Fazana where we left the car
in the hotel’s garage. Then we boarded the ship “Fazanka” for a 15 minute
sail to Veli Brijun. We’ve booked in the hotel NEPTUN and settled in its
old part in a spacious room cum anteroom and a balcony overlooking the
harbor. Despite a not too promising weather we enjoyed the pleasant and
tranquil surroundings thoroughly. We’d sleep long
and refreshed undertook several trips in e-buggy all over the island of Veli Brijun.
One day we have visited the small museum
that is located on Dr. Koch’s path behind the Hotel CARMEN. There I have
learned some interesting geographical and historical facts about
Archipelago's islands. My attention turned to the fascinating story of
an Austrian industrialist Paul Kupelwieser who significantly shaped and
changed Archipelago’s recent history. I had to learn more about this
fascinating personality and following paragraphs are the result of my
study including most of the photographs too.
* * * * * *
earliest relics of human settlement date back to the mid-Neolithic
about 3000 B.C. The Histri, a western Illyrian tribe lived here in 2nd
millenium B.C. and remnants of five fortified hill forts were
discovered on Veli Brijun. From the Illyrian
name “Brevone” originates the present term for the Brioni (Brijuni)
Archipelago. Romans overwhelmed the Illyrians and ruled over Brioni and
after 177 B.C. Romans brought olive tree and grapes and several remnants
of country and farm buildings prove of their intensive agriculture on
Veli Brijun. The large ruins in Verige Bay
are possibly remains of the imperial Roman summer residences of 1st
century A.D. There was a palace with three terraces, three temples, and
quarters for priests, several baths with pools for warm and cold water,
an aqueduct, sewage system, farm buildings, quarters for servants and
slaves, and a quay that is submerged today.
The luxurious rustic Roman castle built in
3 terraces at the south shore of Bay Verige (left in background). At
right a view from one of castle's upper terrace down towards the Bay
ruled over a Slav settlement on Brioni from 539 to 778 and the centre of
life moved to Veli Brijun western side in Dobrika Bay.
A well-ordered and fortified Byzantine Castrum has been built at the
place of former Roman villas on an area of 1ha. Material
miscellany proves that Romans, Goths, Francs, Byzantines, Slavs and
Venetians lived on the archipelago in an almost unbroken habitation from
2nd the century B. C. to 14th century A. D. Next to the Castrum there
are well preserved remains of St. Mary’s basilica from 5th century and
of a small church of St.
from 6th century.
Byzantine Castrum built at western shore of Veli Brijun island with a
seaward view at left and towards the rear fortification wall with a
mighty Hom Oak tree inside the large compound at right.
came to the Archipelago after Byzantium
that later belonged to the Patriarch of Aquileia. The Benedictine abbey
was constructed in 11th century beside St. Mary’s church and a square
fort, a donjon was built on the eastern coast in 12th century. During
those centuries of prosperity the population in addition to farming
produced salt (Saline Bay),
quarried and dressed stone particularly during Venetian times. Venetian
rule began in 1331 so the exploatation of stone and wood continued as
well as the salt production on the Archipelago that was owned by
Venetian patrician families. Several pestilences devastated the
population like the first plague in 1312 that reoccurred almost every
100 years of. The population recovered rather slowly mostly due to the
malaria illness that harassed people regularly during the warmer
periods. Venetians built two small places of worship the St. Germaine’s
chapel and the St. Rock’s votive church.
of the two different but important hygienic facilities: Roman bath tubs
in Verige bay (left) and the large bath-room in Byzantine Castrum
(right) built in Gospe bay at west of Veli Brijun island.
from the late 17th century the Archipelago’s islands were actually
deserted except for temporary lumbers that came there to cut and to
export wood. As from 19th century the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy
started fortifying the islands by building massive bastions and
batteries. Two large forts on Mali Brijun and other five ones on Veli
Brijun had been constructed for the defence of Monarchy’s main naval
base at Pola (Pula)
MODERN HISTORY – STORY OF
The renaissance of the
Brijuni began in 1893 when Paul Kupelwieser (1872 - 1930), an ingenious
personality and retired Austrian magnate (manager of Vitkovice steel
plant in Moravia), and who bought the
Archipelago from former Portuguese owners. He purchased a cow for a
couple of care-taker but the fodder had be brought in from Fažana like various other bits
and pieces needed for the living on island. Concurrently Kupelwieser
started looking for a suitable person to supervise and manage the works
that were needed to provide reasonable habitation facilities on Veli
Brijun. He made a good choice with an Istrian Alois Zuffar or Alojz
C(h)ufar (1852 -1907) who has been the most reliable and all-round
person to be dedicated to this pioneering task on Brioni. Paul’s son
Karl joined Zuffar and stayed on Veli Brijun while Kupelwieser went to England where he got very sick
and nearly died of an unidentified illness. During his long absence
unwieldy woods and thick macchia were cleared, the few existing
buildings were made more habitable and some new paths set out using
plentiful of rubbles from manhy abandoned quarries.
At left a mosaic in the
Church of St. German and the Palm groove (at former horse race course)
below Gradina peak. One couldn't find out whether these palms were
planted by Kupelwieser.
In summer 1894 a
convalescent P.K. returned to his island and started planting various
tree shoots and vegetable seeds he bought from specialized nurseries.
Simultaneously works started to construct few new buildings together to
clearing areas for the agriculture and animal farming. An imported steam
engine of 20PS run the electric generator and geared various power tools
in an improvised workshop. Rain water was collected into repaired
cisterns at first and a windmill pumped water from the natural lake into
a new concrete reservoir of 200m³ situated on a dam 10m
left an old narrow gauge railway with small tipping wagons was that was
reinstated to be used for various transports on Veli Brijun. One
utilized the plentiful of stone debris from abandoned quarries to fill
up roadbeds and to build the depilated quay wall consisting of large
stones before only. A proper quay wall and an appropriate wave-breaker
have been constructed with concrete blocks some time later. As from 1899
conservation works started on ancient ruins and archaeological sites
marked for the research afterwards
During summer months the
number of malaria sick people increased rapidly becoming a serious
impediment to the works in progress. According to the local health
practice this sickness was treated with strong dosages of quinine but
that was rather expensive. Despite his diminishing finances Paul
Kupelwieser joined a party on 7-week long visit to Egypt in 1900. He bought there
36 palm trees with routes and 2-3m high and brought them to Veli Brijun
to be planted there. The palms survived several winters but wouldn’t
grow and dwindled after few harsh winters.
The old ensemble from Kupelwieser's time
showing the promenade in front of the Hotel Neptun (left) and the old
Boats house (right) not in use now.
Kupelwieser read in a
newspaper that Dr. Robert Koch (1843 – 1910) investigates the malaria
sickness at Grosetto near Rome. He wrote to Dr. Koch
then in Berlin
about his experiences of malaria on Brioni. Shortly after arrived Dr.
Frosch and Elsner from Koch’s Institute for infective deceases to visit
the island. Instant examinations provided the proof of tertiary malaria
cases and an abundance of anopheles mosquitoes causing this sickness.
Soon after Dr. Koch‘s arrival onto Veli Brijun simple experiments and
measures were agreed upon how to eradicate mosquitoes on the
Archipelago. Kupelwieser composed a long report on the malaria and how
to medically treat that illness athat he submitted to the Ministry of
Health in Vienna in January 1902. This
unusual report from a layman about medical matters stirred up some minds
in the Monarchy's Ministries. This particularly as the naval engineering
works on the Archipelago were considerably hampered by losses of workers
and soldiers suffering of malaria illness.
The relief in memory of Dr. Robert Koch
who suggested and effectively helped to eradicate the malaria plague on
Brioni Archipelago's islands.
Dr. Koch came to Veli
Brijun once more in 1902 to see about the progress of sanitation works
being done there in the company of a large number of German doctors too.
Following Dr. Koch’s instructions all pools and ponds as the breeding
places of Anopheles mosquito were filled in and levelled in. Thus the
German doctors have learned about how to eradicate the mosquitoes’
plague on Brioni Archipelago at first hand. Later they continued with
the research on other malaria’s potential places all over Istria and on a few islands like
Lošinj and Cres. There is a
mural depiction of Dr. Koch on a quarry wall above that was one of the
largest mosquitoes’ breeding places on Veli Brijun. There were no
mosquitoes on Veli Brijun since the summer of 1903 and the malaria
illness was wiped out for ever too.
Paul Kupelwieser bought a
sailing boat used by fishermen at Fažana as it was essential
to for an increasing transport to the island. This boat turned out not
as too adequate to move bulky and heavier goods or to navigate to Pula and other harbors further
away. A small steam yacht “Brioni I.” was acquired soon after.
After Kupelwieser’s son Karl received his captain's patent he used “Brioni I.” on his many voyages in the
later years. This yacht wasn’t good enough for transporting bulky goods
like coal or building materials of larger volumes and to be used as a
water cistern. Thus Paul K. ordered a new cargo ship with a steam engine
built in Lošinj so this vessel was
named “Brioni II.” starting its service subsequently. It has been
used rather efficiently and remained unharmed throughout times of World
Despite the rather modest
amenities in a 14-room hotel first guests came to Veli Brijun in 1896
already. From 1903 the number of tourists increased significantly and among them were many of
Monarchy’s noble and honourable persons. Thus a more comfortable vessel
was needed for regular services to and fro to Pula harbor and to others
harbors on the coast of Istria. Inventive Kupelwieser
ordered a new ship that had to be driven by a fixed Diesel engine and
was the first of its kind in the shipbuilding worldwide. His third ship
“Brioni III.” had its home harbor at Brioni and had provided postal and
local travel services throughout many decades. This remarkable ship had
survived both World Wars although under different names and sailed well
into 1960s too.
This modern monument to "The Water Bearer"
was erected during times when Brijuni islands were Marshal Josip Broz
Tito's chosen summer residence. At those times the whole Archipelago was
the restricted zone and the only visitors were guests of the Yugoslav
The water became in short in supply as number of tourists
increased as well as the requirements for farming on Veli Brijun.
Kupelwieser bought a cavern system near of Fažana from that high stand
one pumped water through a pipeline of 3.200m length laid on shallow sea
floor to Veli Brijun. The pipes were made of cast iron and had been
isolated with 3 layers of Indian hemp soaked in asphalt
to prevent corrosion by sea water. The increased demand caused problems
soon because the water became brackish partly influenced by tidal
movements too. In the meantime City of Pula planned the water supply
from deep well near Galižane that Romans had been
using long times ago already. By extending and linking Brioni pipeline
to Pula water supply system in
1908 Kupelwieser solved the main problem although the repair costs for
the pipeline went up with its age.
two postcard pictures were printed in 1912. The passenger ship "Brioni
III" and the cargo carrier "Brioni II" moored at main quay in front of
Hotel "Neptun" and Hotel "Carmen" in background left. The view to Hotel "Neptun" from the
promenade of Hotel "Carmen" (right).
During coming years the construction works began for larger
hotels and 4 hotels with a total of 320 rooms and 10 villas were
completed by 1913. The hotel compound “Carmen” was built close by the
hill of same name and north of other hote one named “Neptun” was located
inside the harbor south side. Next to all these construction works one
built a new quay, a post office & telephone switchboard, created
some 50km of roads and paths and formed a beach side with 180 cabins,
made an indoor swimming-pool with heated sea water, a casino, run a
stud farm and prepared various sports grounds as well as the largest
golf course in Europe (18 holes and 5850 m of
paths) of those times too. Vineyards and olive plantations products were
appreciated the same like the milk and the excellent cheese on island
own pastures. The Brioni Archipelago has been advertised as the climatic
and wellness resort and printed a weekly newspaper too. The season lasted almost the
whole year round and the standing of guests confirmed the social
prestige status for the holidays on Brioni. However during the war
period from 1914 to 1918 some 2.600 soldiers were stationed on the
MS "Fazanka" provides the transfer of
tourists from the mainland Fazana harbor to the Veli Brijun island
(left) and the speed boat stationed at the island at right.
Ingenious and untiring
Paul Kupelwieser has had many more ideas and plans to develop the
southeast and southwest coasts of Istria that the Monarchy has
neglected so far. In Medulin harbor he thought one could construct a
shipyard contributing its service to the Monarchy’s naval base in Pula. Also he suggested a
daily ship connection on the relation from Medulin to Zadar via Lošinj. He recommended the
construction of 20km railway line from Zadar to Šibenik that was to be
linked to the main railway to Split and Zagreb respectively. In this
respect Kupelwieser bought Vižula peninsula there thus
securing an adequate stone quarry and several fresh water wells too. He
negotiated also possibilities to establish an oil terminal and a
quick-lime production close to Pula. Near Valtura he found a
large area that could be turned into vineyards and intended to buy large
plots for his faithful cooperator Alois Zuffar but the later died before
the First World War interrupted all Kupelwieser’s plans to turn the
Brioni Archipelago into a perfect tourist attraction. When this war
ended whole of Istria
including its islands came under the Italian sovereignty but
the Brioni Archipelago remained the possession of Kupelwieser’s family.
Due to the increasing and stronger tourist competition Kupelwieser’s
enterprise went bankrupt in 1936 and came under the jurisdiction of the
Italian Ministry of Finance. Soon after a daily hydroplane connection to
Brioni had been introduced but the Second
War ended this new period of tourist prosperity abruptly. Again the
Brioni Archipelago became a naval fortification and came under aerial
attacks several times in the wake of Second World War. In a bomb raid on April
two hotels, many houses and a large part of the quay were badly damaged
1. THE NATIONAL PARKS OF CROATIA by Ivo Bralic;
translated from Croatin by
Vladimir Ivir & Nikolina Jovanovic; ISBN
953-060580-3 (ŠK); 1995 Zagreb.
den Erinnerungen eines alten Österreichers“ Paul Kupelwieser Brioni,
& Co., Wien I, Stefansplatz 8.
The special edition „HISTRIA HISTORICA” Vol.
5 – Paul Kupelwiser “From reminiscences
of an old Austrian – Brioni
/ Brijuni / Pula 1993. Copyright 1993 by
the Society for History and
Cultural Development of Istria, Pula (Croatia); ISBN 0351-1626. This
Edition contains the
original text in German by
Paul Kupelwieser and the Croatian translation of the same.