We arrived in Sarajevo at about 1.30 after 3 hour drive from Banja Luka.
The trip was good - a combination narrow winding mountain roads at the start
followed by an unexpected but welcome stretch of motorway at the end
(although when we were there it was not all finished).
checked into the house at Ildza we joined our guide Arma? from Funky
Sarajevo Tours for our tour around the sights of the siege of Sarajevo which
happened from 1992 to 1995.
Arma had a fantastic knowledge, having
experienced the siege herself. This page includes my recollections but you
shouldn't take it as a totally accurate representation of history. But I've
done what I can to make it accurate.
A very quick history lesson is
required first. Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the former state of
Yugoslavia which was a communist state from the end of world war 2 to the
early nineties. The word Yugoslavia means 'South Slavs' and was a relatively
new country combining several older ethnic and religious groups. For this
description I've restricted this to the three that impact Bosnia - Croats
(traditionally Catholics), Serbs (traditionally Orthodox Christian) and
Bosniaks (mainly Muslim).
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the
collapse of communism in Eastern Europe areas of Yugoslavia started to look
for independence. Slovenia went first and after a short war (of 10 days) the
Croats followed them.
The capital of Yugoslavia was Belgrade and
this was a largely Serbian city. The government in Belgrade was also largely
Serbian and as such the army of Yugoslavia (which had been one of the
biggest in Europe) was largely under the control of the Serb leader Slobodan
Milosevic. When Bosnia decided to vote for independence he threatened war to
retain it. Serbian agitators from within Bosnia also had dreams of a Greater
Serbia. After the positive vote for independence (which Serbs were urged to
boycott) the rhetoric in increased and culminated in several people being
shot at a demonstration in Sarajevo from the Holiday Inn near the parliament
The Serb army moved in but were held at bay by a large
number of poorly armed Bosnians who for the next 3 years defended Sarajevo
until finally, and many would say belatedly, the NATO and the U.S.
decisively intervened in 1995.
Our tour took us past the rebuilt
library building which was destroyed by Serbian shelling during the siege,
past Logavina Street (a famous street written about by journalist Barbara
Demick), the market which was the scene of one of the worst atrocities of
the siege where 68 people died in one incident and past the infamous Holiday
Inn, down Sniper Alley.
We saw the site of the Sarajevo war tunnel
(now named the Tunnel of Life). Here Arma explained that during the siege
the Bosnians constructed this tunnel to allow limited supplies to get into
the city. It was constructed from both sides and runs right under the
landing strip of the airport that was then controlled by the UN.
also learned more about the siege and saw one of the Sarajevo Roses - a
spiral mark in the ground from where a shell hit. These are coloured red
where a large number of people died. It is estimated that 329 shells landed
on Sarajevo per day (which last 1,425 days) and almost 14,000 people died
during the three year siege.
We then drove out into the hills above Sarajevo visiting an abandoned
luxury restaurant from the Yugoslavian area and the remains of the bob
sleigh from the 1984 winter olympics as well as enjoying the view.
This did highlight a couple of logistical concerns to remember when
travelling in Bosnia. Arma was very careful never to let the car out of her
sight. She, and many others in Sarajevo told us that crime against people is
rare however unemployment is high and theft from a car in an isolated area
is not an uncommon event. So be careful.
Finally we visited the site of the beginning of the first world war. The
corner of the street next to the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand
was killed by the Black Hand Gang.