The imminent demolition of Bohinj’s iconic Hotel Zlatorog is now the best and realistically only course of action available to an ailing edifice left to wither on the vine by its previous owner.
Once favoured by Marshal Tito as a bucolic setting in which to receive fellow Non-Aligned and Communist leaders when Slovenia formed the northernmost part of the now former Yugoslavia, the walls would certainly have some stories to tell of visits from the likes of Kim Il-Sung, Willy Brandt, and Egypt’s President Nasser who experienced informal hunting lodge-type surroundings set amid the comparative remoteness of Lake Bohinj’s western fringes.
When the Zlatorog fell into disrepair and eventually closed approximately a decade ago, then owner Zmago Pacnik resisted all requests to at least bring the hotel up to code – something he hadn’t really given great attention to when the hotel was still open. As the harsh alpine climate began to eat away at the Zlatorog’s fabric, highlighted by the weight of snow bringing down a roof overhanging the indoor swimming pool, anything of value was soon looted by scrap scavengers and probably souvenir hunters. Even urban explorers cottoned on to the opportunity to explore this abandoned leviathan of yesteryear.
It came to a point where demolition was mooted as the only viable course of action left to a structure that was both conspicuously dying and holed below the waterline. An eventual change of ownership has done nothing to alter this harsh reality, but at least in the hands of unlikely saviour Damian Merlak, a 30-something Slovenian Cryptocurrency millionaire, the Zlatorog’s future is assured.
Plans recently approved by the local municipality include the inevitable demolition but also what amounts to a reboot sympathetic to the epochal significance in design and its place in Yugoslav history. Perhaps most importantly, the design and materials used to bring it to reality will be entirely in keeping with the astonishing surroundings, and the Zlatorog’s situation within a quite rightly jealously guarded Triglav National Park.
New ideas stemming from the younger generation can often precipitate suspicion of the motives attached to such projects but Merlak, someone whose fondness for Bohinj is longstanding, has given a sizeable commitment to redevelop the Zlatorog and several other tourist properties formerly in Pacnik’s portfolio in a way that will generate a return on his investment, and renew pride in the area’s accommodational offering. A 21st century resuscitation of assets that include the Ski Hotel Vogel and eponymous Hotel Bohinj was long overdue, and has the security of stringent superintendence from both Bohinj’s municipality and the Triglav National Park authority.