Welcome to Part 2 of our Sarajevo blog – those of you who have already checked out Part 1 (available here – don’t miss out!) will know that we’ve just been for a really good, if slightly random, tour of the city and the surrounding hills with our host Emil. We had another night left, and still plenty we wanted to do. In no particular order, we wanted to visit:
1: The abandoned bobsleigh track from the 1984 Winter Olympics.
2: The ‘Tunnel of Hope’, a museum at the entrance of the infamous supply tunnel which kept Sarajevo supplied during the siege in the 1990s.
3: The museum of the war and specifically the Srebrenica massacre – Gallery 11/07/95
You’ll notice these are all focused, in their own way, around the war; but it really is impossible to visit Sarajevo without encountering it – and it’s certainly not something you should seek to avoid.
Anyway, on with the afternoon…
Sarajevo Day 2 – The Afternoon
One cool thing (among many!) which you can do in Sarajevo which doesn’t have a direct link to the war is to head towards the Avaz Twist Tower – a high rise building with amazing views over the city. For the very small sum of 1KM (less than 50p), you can take a glass lift (itself with great views, if slightly scary!) up to the top floor and on to the viewing platform. There’s also a cafe/bar/restaurant in case you feel like having a coffee or beer with a view!
Slightly annoyingly, the weather was still atrocious and we couldn’t see as far as we might otherwise have hoped. Ah well. Definitely worth it regardless.
The walk back was much simpler too once we realised where we were going – we were wandering slightly blindly towards the tower when we were trying to reach it, and ended up cutting across shrubberies and wasteland when we realised we’d taken a wrong turn. Oops. No harm done.
The road back was littered with the ‘Roses of Sarajevo’ – crater holes filled in with red paint, to mark a spot where a shell exploded during the siege. The city is sadly filled with them.
Once back in the center, we thought it was time to start working on sorting out visits to the Bobsleigh track and the Tunnel of Hope. The problem with both of them is that they are quite a long way out of the city center. The Tunnel is right by the airport; a good 20 minute drive away – and the Bobsleigh track is even more problematic; high up in the hills above the city, accessible via a rarely used road. We’d heard that some people had managed to persuade taxi drivers to drive them up to the track and wait for them whilst they had a poke around – but after trying and failing to negotiate with at least 5 separate taxis, it was clear that the drivers’ limited English and our embarrassingly non-existent Bosnian meant that an alternative tactic was needed.
Now, we normally don’t like going on guided tours – we’d much rather explore places at our own pace and make our own mistakes. But with time in Sarajevo running out, and lots still to see, we decided to cut our losses and head to a tour company’s office to see if we could negotiate a trip which included the Bobsleigh track and the Tunnel of Hope all in one. As it turned out, we stumbled across an absolute gem – Spirit tours – where we were greeted by Enes, who quickly sorted us out an itinerary which would take us to the Bobsleigh track and the Tunnel of Hope the next day, with more than enough time to catch our flight in the evening. We were so impressed by Enes, even after just 10 minutes of discussions in the office, that we agreed to show up at 10am the next day to go on one of their free walking tours of the city. More on Enes and the tours later!
With 2 out of the 3 main activities on our list organised for the next day, it was time to make our way to the Gallery. It’s one of those indescribable places that you can’t really try to do justice. It’s centered around the Bosnian losses during the war – and, specifically, the Srebrenica massacre. An horrific atrocity on European soil that doesn’t get enough recognition, at least not in the UK. We knew so little about it before we first visited Bosnia – and if anybody reading this wants to know more, this website is a good place to start.
Gallery 11/07/95 is just what it sounds like – a Gallery, with motion and still images from the war and the massacre at Srebrenica. Inside, the atmosphere is sombre and silent – bar the helpful insights from the guides. The images are harrowing and violent, as you would expect – and certainly have a profound effect. Whilst we were there, a man fainted during one of the videos. Nobody was surprised. It’s not a place to go expecting your mood to be lifted; far from it. We left feeling depressed, and more than a little angry that such acts were allowed to be carried out so recently right here in Europe. It’s an absolute must visit if you’re in Sarajevo. The message is important.
On to cheerier things…
We weren’t quite sure what to do after visiting the Gallery, so headed off on another wander around the middle. You could walk around in circles for hours and never get bored, especially around the Bazaar.
Head down to the river, and you get another dose of history with the Latin Bridge – the scene of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the trigger for the First World War. When we say Sarajevo has a lot of history, we’re not exaggerating!
Eventually we were done with walking, and needed dinner. You may or may not have noticed that we have barely mentioned food during our Sarajevo blogs so far, apart from our first night ‘dinner’. That’s because we basically just ate Börek the whole time. Literally lived off the stuff. But it had all got too much, and we needed something non-pastry and non-greasy, so we just opted for the nearest Italian. Wonderfully boring pasta. Wonderfully cheap. Definitely the only English speaking people in the place, which is just how we like it.
Boring dinner over, time to attempt the walk back up the hill to our apartment/room/house. It was surprisingly simple, even if our calves weren’t thanking us by the end. Time to pack ready for an early departure the next day, where a whole schedule of tours awaited us…and the small matter of a flight to Germany. “Why Germany?!” we hear you ask…all will be revealed!
It’s a testimony to Sarajevo that we’re going to now have to split this blog into 3 parts to do the next day of Bobsleigh, Tunnels and other exploring justice – you’ll just have to stay tuned in. Watch this space!