Prevlaka is a small peninsula in the south of Croatia at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor. It is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Dubrovnik and can be reached by the same road that leads to Montenegro.
The peninsula is 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) long and only 150-500 meters (164-546 yards) wide, giving it a total area of 93 hectares (230 acres). Being well signposted, it is quite easy to find.
At the very tip of the Prevlaka Peninsula is Cape Oštro, the southernmost point of the Croatian mainland. It is at this location that the Punta d’Ostro fortress was built.
The fortress was constructed in the middle of the 19th century, around the 1850s, and is a unique example of military architecture of the time. Punta d’Ostro looks directly toward the island of Mamula, which is located two kilometers (1.2 miles) east of the cape.
This military fortification was divided into three levels, with a battery located a few meters from the sea. Also on-site were military complexes, bunkers, observation points, and tunnels. Punta d’Ostro could accommodate 405 people, and during peacetime, there would still be about 245 people in the fort.
The fort’s primary function was to strengthen the defense of the Bay of Kotor during the Austrian Empire by preventing the entry of enemy ships. This was a task it shared with the fort on Mamula Island, which is visible from Punta d’Ostro.
This massive facility came under attack several times during ongoing hostilities. On September 1, 1914, the fortress was shelled by the French fleet, and it returned fire 100 times, taking only minor damage.
In 1992, Croatia and the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia agreed that the peninsula should be demilitarized and submitted to UN monitoring. This monitoring ended in 2002, at which point the land fell under the governance of Croatia while the waters belonged to Montenegro.
However, this arrangement was under an interim agreement, and nothing formal has yet been agreed upon. If the two countries cannot solve the border dispute themselves, they may need to take the matter to the Hague. In the meantime, the fort is left neglected and falling even further into ruin.
Currently, the fortress is open to the public and there is a charge to enter. There is also a cafe and it’s possible to rent bikes for those who don’t want to travel on foot. Visitors need to be extremely careful when exploring Punta d’Ostro because some of the walls are at risk of collapse.
In 2015, some parts of the fortress were renovated with the intention of using them to house refugees. A complete reconstruction began in 2019 under the management of the Municipality of Konavle and the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities.
The ultimate goal of this reconstruction is to open a museum dedicated to the history of the Austro-Hungarian navy, a restaurant, and possibly a camping site. Although restoration work had to cease due to a lack of funds, the Society is still collecting objects to house in the museum when it opens.
Francesco Melchionda is the owner of the photographs of the fortress on Prevlaka. He managed to capture the beauty of this place using both color and black and white photos.
A big thank you to Francesco for allowing us to share them with our readers. You will find more of his photos in his Flickr account. Enjoy!