The Vila was built in 1932, as a hunting lodge that sat up on Croatia’s ‘Bear Mountain’ – ‘Medvednica’ – just north of Zagreb. I’ve written previously about the Ustaše, Croatia’s WWII Nazi-aligned government; well, Vila Rebar was where their leader, Ante Pavelić, would later make his home.
During his reign as the fascist dictator of the Independent State of Croatia, Pavelić ordered massacres against the nation’s Jews, Roma and ethnic Serbs. He lived at Vila Rebar, on and off, and for protection he had a series of tunnels and bunkers hollowed out in the mountain underneath.
Pavelić fled after the war. For a few decades, Vila Rebar survived as a dubious mountain resort burdened by a dark past. It lasted until 1979, when a fire broke out and the building was levelled to its foundations. That’s all that remains of it now – stone buttresses and archways, the stump of a former mansion now entirely abandoned to the elements. Oh, and the tunnels, of course.
It’s rather like a maze down there – a network of corridors and store rooms, long, straight shafts that branch out in all directions through the rock, to pop out at hidden exits around the mountainside.
The name of the place wasn’t comforting either… ‘Bear Mountain.’ It wasn’t just an act of poetic license, but rather the area is known for its colonies of European brown bears. Added to that, graffiti completed the picture – twisting human silhouettes and bear-shaped motifs, plastered on walls throughout the fascist’s underground realm.