Our third and final day in Sarajevo was upon us. A hectic and slightly mad schedule awaited us – over the course of the day we had to:
- Pack up all our stuff. Everything had (somehow) escaped from our bags and jumped onto the floor.
- Check out of our accommodation.
- Go on a fairly in-depth tour of Sarajevo; taking in the wartime tunnels and the abandoned Bobsleigh track.
- Eat something, at some point.
- Make our way to the airport in time for our afternoon flight to Cologne in Germany (mysterious reason why to be revealed at the end).
- Find our accommodation in Cologne. And more food.
We got numbers 1 and 2 out of the way pretty quickly, and were given one final lift in to town by the lovely Emil – he didn’t even charge us this time, we must have done something right!
Armed with our massive bags, we waddled back through the Bazaars in the old Turkish bit of town, heading in the direction of the BH Spirit tour company’s office to begin our trip to the tunnels and Bobsleigh.
First on the tour agenda was the Bobsleigh track – nestled at the end of a very unloved road high in the mountains above Sarajevo. As we bumped along over the potholes and past the stray dogs, we began to realise why the taxi drivers had been so reluctant to take us there the day before (definitely had nothing to do with our embarrassing attempts to speak Bosnian).
The Bobsleigh track was built for the 1984 Winter Olympics, and would have hosted tens of thousands of spectators in its heyday. Now it stands as a crumbling memory, covered in graffiti and – eerily – bullet holes from the Bosnian war. We were dropped off near the top of the track, and were given plenty of time to wander all the way down to the finish line at our own pace.
The entire site is absolutely silent, bar the sound of the birds, which makes for a very strange atmosphere as you walk down. Taking it all in is a fascinating experience, and makes for some great photos. We’ll let these do the talking, because words don’t really do it justice. Needless to say, it’s somewhere you must visit if you have time in Sarajevo.
We stayed slightly longer than we should have done, and found our guide Dino wandering down the track to meet us as we headed back up (“I thought you’d got lost!”). He whisked us off at speed, back through the mental Sarajevo traffic and on to the airport, not for a flight but to visit the Tunnel of Hope, built during the siege of Sarajevo and used to smuggle everything from food to weaponry – the lifeline for the people of Sarajevo during the siege. There was a short film and a series of displays, but it was our guide Dino’s stories which made the visit memorable. There’s no replacement for hearing from someone who lived through history, and he had some truly shocking tales and some sad insights into the anger that still, unsurprisingly, exists among Bosnians today.
A short section of tunnel is open to let you experience a little of what the people who used it must have gone through. It is TINY. To put it into context, Lucy’s head nearly touched the ceiling. That is a sign of a low roof – and even the 50 meters or so which you were allowed to walk gave you a sense of how claustrophobic and uncomfortable it must have been when in use. Truly remarkable.
Our tour concluded with a visit next door, where we met Abid – a Bosnian pensioner and one of the unsung heros of the war. Abdul used to drive a supply truck, and told us tales of transporting goods (and sometimes bodies) under sniper fire from the Serbs on the hills. It must have been terrifying. Despite the morbid topics of conversation, Abid did have a great and slightly unorthodox sense of humour – his wife kindly served us coffee and was promptly described as “the biggest pain in my life” (more than once). Poor lady.
And with that, the tour was over – we bid farewell to Dino and had one last Burek before we began the journey back to the airport…this time to catch our flight! A taxi seemed like a bit of a cop-out at this stage, so we opted instead for a walk & tram combo. Without really having a clue what we were doing, we somehow found a tram that was heading in the general direction of the airport. It was absolutely rammed, and our backpacks were not a welcome addition in the eyes of the other passengers! Ah well, what can you do?
We definitely missed a stop, but managed to jump off within decent walking distance of our final destination, and before we knew it we were sat in the departures lounge. Sarajevo airport is, by the way, absolute garbage. If you want anything to eat (or even drink) whilst you’re waiting for the flight, buy it before you go through security. Unless you have a real love of burnt toast and overpriced water .
Starving and thirsty, it was finally time to board our Germanwings flight across to Cologne. Germanwings is definitely one of our favourite airlines – well-priced, reliable, and a great variety of routes.
And the reason we were flying to Cologne? A Taylor Swift concert. Not even embarrassed. After the gig we’d be making our way by bus down to Frankfurt, and catching another flight to the beautiful Zadar in Croatia. Quite some detour. Stay tuned!