Last week Bohinj’s Hotel Bellevue sold at auction, bringing to a close a sorry chapter in its history that even Agatha Christie, its most famous guest, would’ve struggled to imagine.
Situated in a forest clearing atop a crest at the end of an 800 metre road linking it to civilisation, the Bellevue afforded visitors fortunate to occupy a room overlooking Lake Bohinj and Mount Triglav views that lived up to its name. Built in the style of a typical alpine hunting-lodge, its rustic appeal abstract from the relative hustle and bustle in lakeside Ribcev Laz lent it a unique cachet, whilst also giving hikers a head start on the demanding route ascending through the forest to the Vogel cableway top station – and beyond. Its sad demise whilst in the hands of Japec Jakopin – whose wider business woes reportedly prevented him from investing millions in an ambitious upgrade of the hotel – had though been coming for a while. Under previous auspices when I last visited in 2004, the hotel was starting to show the signs of age commensurate with a construct predominantly made up of wood. There was a certain charming disorganization about the place, although the quality of meals also reflecting how little the British tour operator I was travelling with was paying to use the Bellevue. Whilst hotel owners’ are often an easy target, travel companies are not blameless. If you think your holiday is great value, spare a thought for the hotelier who is seeing far less of your money than you think.
I last encountered the Bellevue four years ago, whilst passing it and its depandansa at the end of an arduous descent from Rjava Skala. Shortly before reaching the hotel walkers pass a succession of colourful beehives; these were though the only ‘buildings’ in the area buzzing with activity. With bedding unashamedly drying over the balconies of the annex, it was hard to tell if anyone was staying there or the building was being cleared out. The main hotel building looking for all intents and purposes to be closed; an eeriness hung over the collection of buildings, as if an old friend had passed on. How true that almost was.
Having lain dormant since, the Bellevue has inevitably fallen into disrepair but thankfully not to the extent of its former stablemate, the Zlatorog. The Ukanc-based former leviathan of Bohinj’s tourism industry found itself in a similar predicament but a succession of looting and lack of basic maintenance resulted in the collapse of its swimming pool roof. As a futile riposte to unwanted guests whose only interest in the Bellevue were to pillage anything of value with impunity, some external security measures were installed but metallic chains and signs warning against trespassers could themselves be targeted by metal thieves – the ultimate irony. From the pictures I have seen there is nothing more incongruous, and depressing, than an attempt to fortify a decaying hotel in such beautiful and otherwise unspoiled surroundings.
Now that the Bellevue has changed hands, it is important to look to the future and not to dwell on the past. Despite futilely being ‘valued’ in the millions by Jakopin, the debts accumulated through his former Seaway boat manufacturing business and a Byzantine web of companies has seen the authorities force the sale upon him, in an effort to claw back liabilities reported to be in the region of €1.64 million. Conflicting reports suggest the auctioneer’s gavel fell at €720,000; elsewhere a figure of €860,000 has been mooted, the higher figure including the Bellevue’s Savica depandansa. Both figures are realistic, when it is considered the significant remediation needed by both properties and the site’s footprint in general.
So, what is known about the Bellevue’s new owners? To quote Bohinj expert Andraz Sodja writing in the Gorenjski Glas newspaper the successful bidder was the Pokljuka company for forestry, who “was founded by the Forest Management Bled, which is owned by Metropolitana, which in turn is wholly owned by the Archdiocese of Ljubljana”. Whilst this, again, on paper looks to be a less than straightforward and labyrinthine ownership structure, crucially the people and organisations involved are credible and lack the opacity of the Bellevue’s previous custodian.
At the same auction in Radovljica the lakeside Hostel Pod Voglom, also a Jakopin asset, was slated to be sold but an issue of third party ownership ensured its sale was temporarily postponed. It is hoped that either the Bellevue’s new proprietor or the astute, diligent tenants in situ in what is a thriving Pod Voglom (under Vogel) will eventually seal the deal, lending the area some much needed continuity.
Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House would seem to be the most appropriate title from her oeuvre to describe the Bellevue’s recent fortunes. She always insisted during her 1967 visit that Bohinj was too beautiful an area to use for one of her murder mysteries, although recent events involving the shameful neglect of some of its former preeminent hotels would at the time have been just as unthinkable.
Source material and further information:
RTV Slovenija: https://www.rtvslo.si/lokalne-novice/za-znameniti-bohinjski-hotel-bellevue-na-drazbi-najvec-ponudilo-podjetje-pokljuka/416999