Part 10: Željava Airfield – a Hangout for Adventurers

Ever visited a “lost place”?

These places, often commercial buildings or industrial plants, were abandoned by their inhabitants years and decades ago. Since then, the ravages of time have visibly gnawed away at them. But many people recognize great beauty in them. And thanks to social media, many of these places are no longer quite so “lost”. On the contrary: some have become real tourist traps.

We have to admit: We also fell into the trap near the Bosnian-Croatian border. There, not far from the village of Željava, are the remains of the largest underground military airbase in Europe. The facility is an insider tip for motorcyclists – not least because you can ride your motorcycle deep into the hangar, which extends into the mountain.

After a restful night, we said goodbye to Franzi and Daniel, with whom we had some nice encounters over the last few days. It wasn’t a long farewell, as they decided to visit the Željava Airbase as well. So, we packed up and hit the road!

Rhein2Ganges, Immortalized on Aircraft Sheet Metal

As soon as we arrived at the Željava airfield, we made the acquaintance of an old, empty contemporary witness. An airplane bomber, a long-discarded DC-9, lay dormant on the runway. The body of the aircraft has long served as a figurehead for the airfield – it is completely plastered with stickers that passers-by have stuck on it. We naturally took the opportunity to immortalize the Rhein2Ganges charity tour there too.

Into the Dark of the Željava Hangar

But now to the main attraction, one of the airplane halls carved into the mountain. Like everywhere else on the Željava airfield site: don’t stray from the path! The military installation, originally known as Klek or Objekat 505, harbors dangers. Built between 1957 and 1970, it was in use during the Yugoslav war. After the Yugoslav army withdrew from Bosnia, it was partially blown up and abandoned. However, parts of the site are still mined.

Nevertheless, Berthold bravely drove on. He steered his BMW a good distance into the hangar, but then turned back – sharp metal parts on the floor made him fear he might puncture his Continental tires. Meanwhile, I waited for him outside.

It’s a Small World for… You know the Drill

What we both quickly realized was that we weren’t the only bikers in the vicinity. The sound of engines echoed outside from the underground walls. The unmistakable purr of a BMW machine.

You can imagine our surprise when the noises first came closer and then became quieter and a voice emerged from the darkness.

“Berthold, is that you?”

And then they rattled up: 6 heavy boxer bikes, 1200 and 1250 GS. And sitting on his was our good friend Jakob – on tour with his Boxer Boys. We’ve all been following each other on Instagram for a good year now and have already exchanged a lot of information on motorcycle topics. But we had never met in person before.

It seems we just had to drive to a lost place to find each other. We embraced warmly and swapped wild stories before the Boyer Boys set off again. Have a good trip, guys!

Lickety-Split to Split – for a Reunion

That was the end of our adventure at the airbase. But the next meeting was already waiting. We stopped for a break in Zada and actually wanted to spend the night there. But over a coffee in the town, our old friend Fred, with whom Berthold and I had ridden many great routes, called me. We found out that he was currently in Split.

Only 150 kilometers away? With our great BMW Hakvoort bikes, we’d be halfway there. So, up onto the highway and off to Split’s old town. We spent the rest of the day with Fred and had a great time.

Then on to Greece and Bosnia soon.

While we prepare for the next tour, you, dear readers, can also become active. Because only with your support will Rhein2Ganges be a success for Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V.!

Berthold and I want to collect at least 1 euro in donations for every kilometer ridden – in the end this would be around 50,000 euros. The money will be used by Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V. to set up educational facilities for children from poor population groups in India. We look forward to your donation

Donation account: DE40 5745 0120 0030 5199 46
Purpose: Rhein2Ganges

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