Moving tour of Sarajevo

Trip Start Jun 07, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2009

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Bosnian Nana's House

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Friday, July 31, 2009

Up at 9am after a ridiculous amount of sleep, we headed to the Tourist Office's restaurant for a free breakfast. We then waited outside the office where the 11am tour was picking us up. There was an American guy going absolutely nuts at the staff, shouting all kind of profanities and abuse at them. I'd seen him at breakfast and he seemed fine. He tore out the office giving a great big yell and walked away. Highly curious, I was tempted to ask the lady in the office what it was about when she came out to cheerfully greet us so figured it really was none of my business and just left it.

For the first part of the tour we were driving out through the city into the outskirts near the airport where the lifesaving Tunnel was built by the Bosnians during the war. It went on for 800m under the airport and was used to take supplies and weapons into the beseiged city and get injured people out. The Serbians had them surrounded on most of the mountain ranges except for the one bordering Croatia. As a result, building the tunnel was their only option. It took 4 months to build and managed to last throughout the whole of the 4 year war. Most of it has collapsed now except for a 5 or 10 metre section which they allow tourists through, to highlight to them what extremes they had to go through and make them better aware. They built it near the airport as that seemed the safest place to put it as the UN had control of the airport at the time. The Serbian General wouldn't allow the airport to be targeted because of the UN involvement so it seemed obvious to build something nearby the somewhat "safe" area.

The museum at the tunnel included some photos and a 25 minute video presentation which was a bit weird and unsettling. It seemed like it was just a home made movie that had been gently dubbed with some foreboding music. The first part of the video was awful and showed the city being attacked by missiles and gun shots with people running for their lives in every direction. The second half of the movie showed them building the tunnel and then using it to take through food, weapons, refugees and the injured. There was a lady they showed in the video who seemed to be quite well known during the war at would constantly stand at one end of the tunnel with a big container of water which she would distribute a glass of to every one the came out of the tunnel.

On the next part of the tour we headed up high into the mountains and to the spot where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held. The view from this area is incredible and you can see all of Sarajevo spread out in the valley below. This is exactly why the Serbians chose this area to begin their attack and base themselves from. We walked down what was the bob sled slide in the Olympics and is now used by younger people for skate boarding, motor bikes and (judging by the amount of condoms lying around the place) a make out spot! I'm not sure if it's really normal for a country that holds Olympics to let the event facilities fall apart like they have or whether it was just another result of the war, but it was kind of eerie seeing something that would have put them in the world spotlight at the time, now derelict and used as nothing more than a hang out spot for the local youth.

We were driven further down the hill and then asked to climb through some shrubs to get to a pile of rocks. As you looked down below you could see the main street of Sarajevo clearly. This is where the snipers hid in the makeshift bunker, terrorizing anyone or anything that moved below. There was a small village on the hill leading down to the town and you could only imagine the hell they must have gone through when the fighting was happening and shots and missiles were constantly being fired just up the hill from where you lived.

The rest of the tour was just driving back into the town where the Holiday Inn was pointed out to us (the last and only operating hotel during the war where journalists would stay and as a result was constantly under attack) and the City Hall/Main Library which was extremely badly damaged and is still being restored as we speak. It contained a lot of Bosnian history that was damaged or destroyed and is now irreplaceable. A lot of European countries including the EU are helping out to get this building repaired though the contents that were lost can never be replaced.  

After grabbing a delicious, fresh calzone type thing from the local bakery we headed back to the room for a rest - again waiting for it to cool down a little. Fortunately it hadn't hit the predicted 40 degrees and was a lot cooler than we'd anticipated. I woke up after an hour or two of sleep and Sam was still crashed out so I headed downstairs to the outdoor setting to get some fresh air, away from the mustiness and heat of our room. Our Bosnian Nana came out and sat with me and we spent the next 15 minutes having a very basic one worded, sign language conversation. She'd prattle away with her sentences, mixing it up with hand gestures which I tried to understand. I'd give what I thought was the answer and she'd nod and answer my (probably equally as confusing) questions in the same way. I headed back upstairs and lay on the bed thinking about what a shame it was that I didn't speak in a language we could communicate together in and vice versa as I'm sure she would have had some really fascinating and heart breaking stories to tell.

We headed out for a bit of a wander around the old town before going to a restaurant on the recommendation of the Lonely Planet guide - something I generally try not to do! It was a gorgeous, traditional little place that was decorated so quaintly it could have easily been a movie set. I can HIGHLY recommend the food, probably the best I've had for the past couple of weeks. It was a bit more expensive than the multitude of "local grill" restaurants which initially put me off a bit, but turned out to be so glad Sam seemed so keen to eat there. I got squid with white wine and garlic sauce on salad and grilled potatoes and Sam got a mouth watering chicken roll thing stuffed with cheese and ham with grilled veggies. Ah, I'm salivating just thinking about how good it was! If you're ever in Sarajevo, I can't urge you enough to go to Dveri in the old town.

After dinner, and seeing it was a Friday night, we decided to head out for a drink or two. We wandered around a bit and ended up at a place that seemed to have a few people in it called City Bar. Stopped there for a beer then decided it was probably too early for any kind of nightlife to really be happening. As we had to be up just after 5am to get our train to Budapest, we decided to head home. We drifted off to sleep with the sounds of some local Bosnian boys somewhere nearby singing drunkenly at the top of their lungs to songs we couldn't understand....
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