A Fresh Start
Sarajevo Travel Blog› entry 12 of 23 › view all entries
After yesterdays trials and tribulations it was time to get on with it and search out what Sarajevo had to offer. After the breakfast crew were done we headed out and straight for the tourist information office, which is in one of the streets running parallel to the Ferhadija towards the river. Had planned before I left to try and do the Siege Tunnel and we got the information on it. There were a 2 hour and a 3 hour version, and knowing that you CAN have to much of a good thing we went for the 2 hour option. Were told to be at the other sice of the brige down from the Latin Bridge just before 2pm.
It was only just after 10am now, so decided to go and see the things that were highlighted on the map and headed down to the river and along to the left to see the Old City Hall and National And University Library.
On a wall across the river there was grafiti painted on the wall with UN=Nazis showing there were still feelings running high over the war and it's aftermath. Decided we might as well follow the river and headed along towards the newer part of the city, with some nice buildings along either side.
Further down the river we came across three guys who were in the river and looked like they were salvaging bits of scrap metal out of the river. Turned up and went past the Ali-Pasha Mosque and on up to the Olympic Centre. There were two big cemetries up here beside it, and round the corner is the football stadium. Looking at the map we were close to the bus station, and decided to head along and try and sort out buses to Split for Friday. Found the road and ended up having to walk through a big tunnel with a narrow pavement to get there, passing the railway station on the way, since it is in fact just round the corner.
Found the place we were to meet up with the tour, and around then I got a text from vagabond75 to say he was on his way to Sarajevo.
He had been 15 1/2 when the siege had started and had signed up for the Bosnian Army when he was 16, after getting written permission from his parents. The language he used was as much in the present as the past and the Serbs and Montenegrans were always referred to as the aggressors.
The tunnel ran underneath the airport which was controlled by the UN, the rest of the city was surrounded by militant Serbs. Aid coming into the city was split 60/40 with the Serb Forces for them to allow it into Sarajevo, and although the population had shrunk from the pre war 600,000 there were still over 300,000 remaining and the food just wasn't enough. The only way in and out was across the airfield, which Un troops would turn folk back if they found them, on the rather benusing reasoning that they didn't want to be part of the ethnic cleansing of the city by allowing an exodus :-O.
This was known locally as the Tunnel Of Life, and ran from a house on the other side of the airfield to buildings 800m away in the city. Reckoned the Serbs knew of a tunnel, but could never find it. Earth dug out from the tunnel was dispersed on the free side in the defensive trenches that had been dug, and on the city side it was put into two buildings that had been shelled but still had the walls . Once out at the tunnel there was a short video presentation, on the building of the tunnel,which was completed in mid 1993,and showed pictures of troops and people moving in and out of it. On it's completion the first priority was for weapons to be brought through to defend the city, then food and then medicine .
There was a section showing film footage from the time of the bombardment of Sarajevo, which even now is still quite distressing to watch . As an aside at this point I'd like to take the opportunity to recommend a book. As part of the preperations for Sarajevo wife got a book out of the library, and I'm about to finish it, by Bill Carter called Fools Rush In. He is the guy who filmed a lot of the stuff to bring the situation in Sarajevo to the attention of the world, including the Miss Sarajevo pagent. He was also responsible for getting Bono and U2 involved, and while it was to dangerous for them to go to Sarajevo at the time, he organised it so that messages from Sarajevo were beemed out to U2 concerts while they were doing the Zoo Tour.
That digression over :D , after the film finished we headed on down into the tunnel. Had to stoop as it's only 1.5m high and there is only a 35m section left, as they collapsed the rest after the war since it did run under and operational runway. Coming out at the other end you can enter into a small museum with some exhibits from the tunnel and pictures. There is a whole wall of commendations, from the UN,US UK and all sorts of organisations , to the Kolar family who owned the house and kept it hidden and running for 2 years.
Back to the Land Rover and we headed up to where the front lines had been. Think I had always imagined the troops being sited on the hills above the city, but they were right down in the town, and in places just 30m apart.
Back where we started from we walked back up through the town to the hotel. Had arranged to meet vagabond75(Kevin) at 8-30 at the Sebjil Fountain . We headed out to get something to eat and found a great wee restaurant up one of the side streets off Ferhadija, and while the others finished their meals i headed round to the Bascarsija. How would we recognise each other ? No subtle pink carnations or rolled up copies of The Times for me, I had my NY Rangers ice hockey top with me and think I stuck out enough for passing aircraft to notice, but it was enough for Kevin anyway :D.
Went back round to the restaurant and enjoyed a pleasnt evening talking away,about places we had been and plans of places to go. Recommendations for our next stops, as we were going in opposite directions, so we picked out a couple of places in Mostar and Kevin gave us the heads up on Split. We were only going to have a few hours there, and thanks to him we knew exactly what we were looking for and think we managed to make the most of it. Not surprisingly we also highlighted the Tunnel tour as a must do in Sarajevo. Kevin was easy company on the night and fascinating when he went onto his real passion of archaeology. All this and we managed to keep an eye on the football at the same time.
As the night drew on and our 11pm curfew looming, we bid farewell to Kevin and headed back to the hotel. A good day all round, certainly better than yesterday :D