The Škrilj Bunker: Voices from the Underworld

Written by: Mihael Petrovič ml.

Sometimes we need to go deep underground to experience the most interesting things. The Škrilj Bunker has been a well-kept secret for a long time, but today it is open to all visitors. Enter a world where few were allowed to go in the past.

"Eagle, come in, Eagle, come in!" Something like this would probably echo from the underground of Kočevsko if it was the real deal. Deep underground, it would roar, and over two dozen people in three shifts would endeavour that the Slovenian political leadership, living some ten kilometres away, would be aware of everything they needed to know. Outside, bombs would probably be thundering and the radiomen would not be at ease, but they would still know that they were quite safe in their tight temporary residence, even from an atomic attack, if the aggressor decided to resort to extreme measures.

Aggressor? Extreme measures? What is it really about? About the Škrilj Bunker, which together with its home facility in Gotenica has been the cause of many stories and rumours for decades. After all, one of the most protected areas of Slovenia was arousing a lot of curiosity, although – or precisely because of this – only few people were allowed to enter it. Until the 1990s, Kočevska Reka was almost synonymous with secrets.

Until the 1990s, Kočevska Reka was almost synonymous with secrets.

It is therefore no surprise that the Bunker, which opened its doors to visitors in the summer of 2017, has been visited by over 10,000 guests so far. The facility was built by President Tito at the time of the Cold War threat between Yugoslavia and Russia and has remained almost in the same state as in the time of its upgrading sixty years ago. So, when we cross its threshold, we suddenly find ourselves in a time capsule. Underground corridors and spaces take us back to the 1950s, a time when families lived without computers, and Rocco Granata impressed the youth with his Marina. Not to mention Marilyn Monroe, who played the ukulele for Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in the movie blockbuster Some Like It Hot.

Of course, that time had a hidden history as well, and many unknown stories of our past have only been revealed to us in the recent years. The Škrilj Bunker is one such story, but it is also a story about the technical knowledge of past generations, who, with modest means, have been able to create something that is still astounding today. By the way, even two decades ago, when Kočevska Reka had already revealed some of its secrets, people were only allowed to enter it blindfolded. However many visitors still take off on the tour blindfolded from the assembly point in Kočevska Reka, where all the organised tours of the building begin, and only such are possible. Why? Pssst, it's a secret!

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