Once a glittering haunt for Yugoslavia’s pre-war elites, the Hotel Bristol has fallen on hard times, becoming home to displaced families who now face eviction – while mystery lingers over the building’s fate.
On a cold but sunny November morning, nothing indicates that a beautiful old building on Belgrade’s busy Karadjordjeva St was once the city’s most prominent hotel, hosting a galaxy of Yugoslav and international celebrities.
Built in 1912, the Hotel Bristol survived two world wars, welcomed several members of the Rockefeller family and served as temporary home to dozens of Yugoslav army families displaced by the wars during the 1990s.
Its commercial days long over, the Serbian Defence Ministry used it as one of several military institutions from the 1960s. Part of it was reserved for the families of Yugoslav army members.
But today, there is a padlock on the main door. The dirty windows reveal only a glimpse of empty halls, a bar and a restaurant.
Owned by the Serbian government and run by the Defence Ministry, the hotel officially closed on August 28.
Media reports say it will become part of a huge city gentrification project, of which the controversial Belgrade Waterfront is part – but there has been no official confirmation of this.
Despite rumours that the hotel is to be completely restored, there is no sign of reconstruction. The run-down building stands still.
Despite the official closure, however, the Bristol is not entirely empty.
While the 60 hotel staff have all been transferred to other Defence Ministry facilities, around 15 families – who were told in the 1990s that the hotel would be only a permanent solution – still live there.
Recently their water supply and heating was cut off, which many of them see as pressure to leave and accept temporary rooms elsewhere.
“I have no idea what will happen to them, and neither do they,” a man sitting at the reception desk in the part of the building occupied by former army members and their families told BIRN.
The spacious hall surrounding the ragged desk remains empty and dirty.
Next to the huge curtain-less window overlooking the Belgrade Waterfront, there is only one table with four, unpaired empty chairs.