The drive from Mostar to Sarajevo has to be one of the most scenic drives we have come across on our adventure. The Neretva River runs along much of the highway and then you have wonderful mountains reaching up to the sky.
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the largest city. It was heavily bombed during the civil war in the 1990’s but still provides wonderful architectural and cultural taste. It has been referred to as the Jerusalem of Europe and at one point in history had a Catholic church, a Mosque, an Orthodox church and a Jewish synagogue all in the same neighbourhood.
Sarajevo was only the 2nd city in the world and the 1st in Europe to have an electric tram system. It was also the scene of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which started World War I and the scene of the Winter Olympics of 1984. Our tour took us to the place of the Olympics which was unfortunately destroyed during the Balkan’s War. Below are some the surviving scenes including the medal dias, the ski jump and the hotel.
Although for long periods of time under Ottoman rule, the Austrian Hungarian Empire eventually took control of this city and brought infrastructure and work. They used the city to test things before bringing them to Vienna, such as the tram system. They also brought electric lights, even to the mosque. Did you know the 1st public restroom in Europe was in Sarajevo.
An interesting story is the start of World War I. The terrorist group the Black Hand were in Sarajevo when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was in town. Their mission was to assassinate the royal with a grenade. They unfortunately missed and killed innocent bystanders but by luck, the royal circled back around in his open top car, allowing another member of this group the opportunity to kill him. The person who through the grenade was also unlucky. After throwing the grenade, they took a poison pill to commit suicide but the pill did not work. He then jumped into the river but the water was too shallow. He was eventually caught.
Many people choose to remember Sarajevo for the atrocities which affected the city during the 1990’s. It was officially the longest siege of a city in the history of modern warfare. There are many stories to be told about the war which had a huge effect on the lives of the people. Our tour guide explained how their mother had to walk through the firing line every day to get to work during the war. She once came back home with a hole in her dress, not realising a sniper had shot at her and the bullet went through her dress, narrowly missing her. There were scenes of bloodshed all over the city, one of the worst being at the local market where people were murdered. There were over 100 killed in 2 separate attacks. The day after the 2nd attack on the local market signified an important milestone with NATO becoming involved in the war, by conducting air strikes of the Serbian forces who were stationed in the mountains. Today, the people who lost their lives are remembered with red paint dotted where people lost their lives, known as the Sarajevo Rose.
A fascinating story to come out of the war was the tunnel dug underneath the ground that transported supplies from the airport to soldiers and families in Sarajevo. Some people also used this as an escape route out of the city. The tunnel is now a museum and we had an opportunity to go in it.
Our experience in Sarajevo was very enlightening, learning about how the different cultures had worked together for so long before the bloodshed and hatred of the 1990’s conflict set in. Although there are new skyscrapers and buildings have been fixed, there is still a painful memory of those terrible years in this city. Our hope is that the people of this city can one day be proud again of its achievements rather than dwell on the terrible events of the past.