20.05.2007 - 22.05.2007 20 °C
I was starting to doubt my decision as I exchanged nervous smiles with two Canadians on my bus. We pulled up to the check point and a guards with an AK47 come on the bus screaming and dragged us all off, searching us and our luggage before stamping my passport and frog marching me to the waiting bus on the other side of the razor wire fence.
The first things you notice are bullet holes in the wall of every building and that one in 10 houses are actually habitable. Many check points later, and avoiding smoking wrecks of cars and UN armoured patrols, we reached the capital only to run for the cover of the bus station as we were rocked by a nearby explosion and watched wide eyed with ears ringing at the familiar dance of bright red tracer rounds cracked overhead flying in all directions as they deflect off anything hard they hit.
Well maybe over a decade ago this would have rung true but for now it’s just a good yarn. Bullet holes in every building you pass maybe, but long gone are the UN, now replaced by an unarmed and low profile EUFOR. The country is rebuilt and instead of a city filled with people fearing for their lives I stumbled across a city full of upbeat smiling people enjoying life in bustling pedestrian main street filled with the usual cafe culture of any other capital that springs to mind. So thanks to everyone that showed fear for my safety but you are still living the BBC news reports of the mid 90's.
Before we know it, the owner of our hostel had Liam, Even and I in a taxi heading to the outskirts of the city to see the Tunnel museum. This was the site where, quite literally, under the nose of the UN, the people dug an 800m long tunnel under the UN held airport which connected the people of Sarajevo with the rest of the Bosnia free territory. This becomes a vital supply link for the city running in food, weapons and allowing escape. They even ran electricity and phone cables through as well as a fuel pipeline.
The city itself is just like the news reports I remember, well ,minus the war. It is a city full of high rise apartments with trams trundling along and surrounded by hills that seem to collect fog like a back packer collects bed bugs. As you walk around there are still plenty of reminders of the troubles there was, as I said, there are bullet holes in every building as well as the occasional building gutted by the shelling that took place. Also as prominent reminders, there is what they call “the Sarajevo Rose”, this consists of red cement being poured into the holes left behind by the shells on pavements around the city.
The old city is a maze of cobbled streets and single story wooden shops selling the usual tourist wears, though for a couple of Euro, you can pick up some of the tastiest Bosnian dishes out. This is mainly BBQ style, with tasty meats and a huge helping of delicious veggies.
After a short but very humbling stay I awoke at 6am and made my way through the heavy rain and mist to catch the tram across town to a bus station in the middle of nowhere and hopped on a dilapidated blue bus from the 1970's and headed through the mountains to Montenegro.