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  • Writer's pictureMark

Sarajevo, where it all began

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina - the capital of the country. The city that I would have said was the city best know as the flashpoint that started WW1, being the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The start of the Austro-Hungarian Empire declaring war on Serbia, the starting point of World War 1, the point we should all look back towards when talking about the wars and global issues that we have had to deal with since. We stopped in Sarajevo mainly to see the location of the fatal shot, and to see the museum that they have there dedicated to their part in the war.

We knew there was a lot more to see in the city, we were also looking forward to seeing the remains of the bobsled track from the 1984 winter Olympics that were reachable with a short walk from the city, and the history of the siege of Sarajevo from the war in the early 1990's.

We pulled in later in the afternoon and wandered for a while through the old city, the Stari Grad, and realized that we had under estimated the city and that we were both going to love the city and that we would be disappointed that we hadn't scheduled more time to stay and sight-see.

We started our first full day with a free walking tour, and even for a weekday in mid-September, there was a fairly large crowd of people that had shown up for the tour.

Enjoying the mornign in one of the many parks in Sarajevo

Open market selling books on one of the bridges

Sarajevo Synagogue

Along the river

We walked around the city, our guide pointing our different sights and rattling off information. A lot of the facts were about the recent war, our guide was young and had no real memories of the conflict, but she did have some strong opinions about the countries involved.

This is part of what we have really enjoyed about these free tours, most of our guides have been younger, recent graduates, and students of history. We get some strong options, some differing - especially when we look back to Belgrade, Serbia, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. The breakup of Yugoslavia effected, and continues to affect all of the countries that it split into. I won't get into all of the differing views, I'll get them wrong - people are writing books on all of the various reasons how and why the war happened, but getting first hand information from people that have lived through it or have been educated from parents and teachers who did provide a lot more then you can get from books.

That said, we continue to purchase books on these events, as now that we've been there it makes the history that much more alive and interesting.

The museum on the corner where Fanz Ferdinand was shot

The museum at the corner where Franz Ferdinand was shot is small and not that exciting, interesting to see but probably not worth the entry fee if you're not really interested in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and the entry into WW1. The plaque that used to celebrate the assassination has been moved from a prominent position to one down by the road, a copy of Gavrilo Princip's footprints from where he fired the shots have been removed, the country as a whole seems to regret having elevated him from assassin to hero trying to overthrow foreign rulers. They are removing references, Belgrade built a statue to him a few years back, as you can see the feelings are still intense here.

There is also now a plaque showing where an initial memorial was built after the Archduke and his wife were killed. A memorial built during the war and then torn down when it was clear that the Austro-Hungarian Empire wouldn't survive the conflict.

And then onto the important items, the tour continued up to the local brewery. Apparently it was built on a spring so that they would always have fresh water for brewing. During the siege people would risk their lives heading to the brewery to get fresh water. The siege went from April of 1992 to the end of February in 1996, making it the longest siege in modern warfare.

The Sarajevo brewery

We did circle back to the brewery after the tour and enjoyed a drink. The tour ended by the City Hall and Library, another of the sites that was targeted during the war. The burning of the library sent ash from the historical books throughout the city as the written documentation of the countries history went up in flames.

Sarajevo City Hall & Library

From there our tour of the city ended the war portion and we entered the old town and got to enjoy learning about the old original Muslim city core which was founded back by the Ottoman Empire.

Here, the two following photos represent the highlights and low-lights marked in their sidewalks. The star of the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984, and one of the Sarajevo Rose's.

Symbol of the 1984 Winter Olympics

Sarajevo Rose

The Rose's are marks from old motor shell blasts that killed someone. They were filled with a red plastic resin to provide a constant reminder of what had happened during the war. But then life moves on, repairs to the damaged buildings and streets are completed, the city tries to return to are world where they can forget about the war. Of the hundreds of the "Sarajevo Rose's" that existed at the war's end, few remain today, most of them replaced with a new repaired street or building wall.

A rose that remains on a repaired walking street.

That was day one in the city, soaking in the information from the free walking tour and getting a overall feel for the city layout. The next day we got up and headed up to Trebevic on the newly reopened Sarajevo Cable Car.

The new cable car - you can see a car from the '84 olympic in the background

The ride up as great, it provides a full view of the city, we could even see across to the stadium that was used in the Olympics - remember back in 1984 the speed skating events were all done outside.

Looking down on Sarajevo from the cable car

The stadium where some of the '84 olympics took place

The top was nice and provided full views of the city, but we were there to take a look at the old Olympic bobsled track. The track is now abandoned, slowly being overgrown with vegetation, and apparently quickly being overrun with graffiti. It's a short walk to the start of the track, and then we walked down the entire track - which turns out to be longer then we thought. Walking the bobsled track in Korea just 6 months prior seemed shorter, but you're not walking the full length, even here you can see the old paths that spectators would have used to walk up and down for viewing events. I'll let you take a look at just a few of the bobsled track photos that we took -

Bosina - which someone had painted Serbia & Croatia into...

The end of the bobsled run

It was a long walk down, and - as we should have been used to by now - another hot day. We then decided that we should follow the road and walk down the rest of the way, forgoing our return trip ticket, to avoid the long hike back up the abandoned track.

This wasn't the best decision that we've made recently, the road down was more of a loose gravel trail and with some steep inclines and multiple switchbacks. We decided to cut off the "road" and follow a trail down that we saw a hiker coming up. That started well but then started to get steep, once we had passed what we felt was a 'point of no return' for climbing back up to the road, the trail almost disappeared and turned into a steep downhill, loose rock, kind of dry creek bed path. It took us quite a while to carefully find our way down and then turn up in someone's backyard before we could wander around his house and then take actual streets the rest of the way into the city.

Back in the city Tina found us a nice little bar that we could stop into an enjoy a much needed drink.

The final morning, on our way out of the city, we stopped at the house the saved the city. During the siege on the city the plan was to just starve the city out, but people and their resiliency held out. From this house they dug a tunnel out over the then UN controlled airport to the free side of the country. The tunnel shuttled supplies and people daily in and out of the besieged city for years, allowing Sarajevo to hold out, and to survive.

It was a quick stop in the city, we could have easily spent a week here as we barely scratched the surface on all that it has to offer. This is yet another city that we've visited and are now just saying "Well, the next time we visit we will make sure to see..."

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