Exploring an Abandoned WWII Bunker in Ex-Yugoslavia

by Anders Bruihler / Apr 01, 2013 / 0 comments

I sit and relax in the swinging chair. The sun is sliding down towards the sea, but it won’t set for another hour or so. Even so, the fall breeze is rather cool. The Montenegrin coast darts in and out of view with the bays and inlets. The green trees sharply contrast with the gray-orange hue of the rock cliffs and light blue sea. Looking inside the stone cottage, I see my mom and dad talking with their friends. They all laugh at something my mom says. Luke, my brother, is sitting at the table too, but he doesn’t seem to be having too much fun. And me?  I wasn’t too excited about going to the coast for the weekend again (I’m not really a beach person), but it’s more interesting than staying at home in Podgorica. A cold wind dances around my face. I shiver, and wish I had brought my jacket.  


View of the coast, Montenegro


A few minutes later, Tom comes out and sits next to me. He points over at a big circular concrete platform a few yards away with a hole in the center.  “Any idea what that is?”


“No,” I say.


It’s an old artillery placement from WWII.” That surprises me, but I can see how the gun would have fit in and rotated around. The commanding view of the surrounding coast would have been another advantage. 


“There’s also a bunker and tunnel system in a cliff a short walk away,” he adds.


That really gets my attention. I’m rather interested in WWII. He offers to go down with our family. “Sure!” I say. 


He explains that we’re at one of the furthest points out on the coast between two major cities. When Germany occupied Yugoslavia, they built the bunkers here.  


I get my coat and wait inside in front of the wood stove while everyone else gets ready. The warmth slowly starts to seep back into my arms and legs, but before it can completely claim me, we head off. Everyone has their coats, and Tom grabs a few flashlights. We start going down the deserted road and the gravel crunches beneath my feet. Erosion has worn deep trenches through the track, so deep it would be impossible for a regular car to navigate. It winds down rather steeply. The whooshing of the sea gets louder and louder.


The road flattens out, and it goes through a gap in a rusted barbed-wire fence where a gate would have been. On one side of the path, a concrete frame pokes through a mound of dirt. Maybe it would have been a guardhouse?


WWII Concrete structure, Montenegro


A little farther ahead, a larger circular mound catches my attention. When we pass by it, I look back and see a small doorway. Inside, I can faintly see the outline of a large room. Prickly bushes cover the entrance, so I decide not to explore it further. 


We cross a riverbed on an old bridge, and a recessed doorway looms on the side of a hill. It reminds me of a train tunnel entrance. When we get to it, old hinges are apparent where a reinforced door would have hung. When I step in, I see braces on the curved ceiling where electrical wires would have been routed. The walls are whitewashed, but paint has peeled away at some parts and rust-colored water stains reveal cracks. The stairs going down are littered with dead grass, and my mom and brother descend first. The cold, stale air makes it difficult to breath at first. I zip my jacket all the way up and put on the hood. As we head down a quiver runs through my body. Is it the cold? Or something else?


Down into WWII Bunker, Montenegro


After we reach the bottom and wind around a few turns, we get into the main tunnel. A few other passages in the distance let in light. The floor here, too, is scattered with wooden planks, sticks, and puddles, and without my flashlight I wouldn’t be able to navigate them. My father looks in one of the many side passages.


Exploring the hallway, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


And then we continue down the tunnel.


Exploring the hallway, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


We get to one of the branches and head to the right. I take a second to adjust to the light. On the ceiling a plastic pipe runs for ventilation. Another doorframe to the left is visible.


WWII Bunker, Montenegro - hallway to gun placement


The first doorway yields nothing but an empty room, but down the hall we are rewarded with a great view of the sea. The sun has just started to set, producing an orange band below the clouds. The room is a semi-sphere, and it’s rather easy for me to figure out that this would have been another gun placement. A curved triangular opening towards the sea would have been the window for the gun barrel.


WWII Bunker, Montenegro - looking out at gun placement


Along the edge of the opening, a wire would have held a camouflage screen. Bushes block part of my view, but on one side I can see that this was built right on top of the cliff face. I can also see another opening in the cliff itself, another gun placement.


We head back into the tunnel and continue on. My feet scrape, and send the sound echoing down the corridor. Now it’s completely dark, and without my flashlight I would be lucky to see the outline of anything. All of the photos have been enhanced so you can see more. This one hasn’t, and it’s darker. 


Dark hallway, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


And here’s the same photo, but enhanced. 


Dark hallway, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


We climb up some more stairs and another light at an end of the tunnel lets us know we have come to the surface somehow. This time there’s a chute and ladder up. The rust red rungs stain my hands when I pull them away from the cool metal. 


Up the ladder, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


We come to the top and get out in a small room. My eyes adjust to the light again. There are two wooden trapdoors on the side that would have covered the chute. There are a lot more braces on the wall, including some pipe and a metal box with a switch inside. 


WWII Bunker, Montenegro


This time the only opening is a narrow slit. I imagine it is for a machine gun in case the bunker system was assaulted from land. The fresh air and wind is a welcome relief. I peer out from it at the surrounding area. 


view from within WWII Bunker, Montenegro


Then we head back down into the tunnel system, back to the entrance.


Down the ladder, WWII Bunker, Montenegro


Before we leave, we explore one last passage. When we get to the last small room, we discover artillery earmuffs scattered all over the floor! They have partially rotted away, but it is still an exciting find. The green plastic and yellow sponge muffling material makes me think of what it would have been like during WWII, with young fighters scrambling through the tunnels like frantic ants. Even though the bunker never saw fighting, it is still a thrilling thought, and it sends a tingle down my spine. 


When I leave I think of the place very differently. Before, I hadn’t thought that much of it, but now I do. Part of me would like to show the tunnels to all of my friends and everyone else, but another part realizes how that would shatter the eeriness and mysterious past.





Anders Bruihler is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.


All photos courtesy and copyright Anders Bruihler