Bus-ing Round the Balkans travel blog

 

 

 

 


The rain hasn't stopped in Sarajevo since I arrived, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The Miljacka river is angry, violent looking. The newspapers are full of photos of flooded towns in the north of Bosnia, with dramatic headlines about the cataclysmic weather.

Not exactly how I pictured my time in Sarajevo, but, undeterred (or rather, very deterred, but too stubborn to give in to being freezing cold and wet) I spend the morning exploring the old turkish quarter and old town. Even in the rain Sarajevo has a certain charm to it. It's quite a small, compact city, and that gives a certain feel to it. Personal almost.

I quite like the fact the main square in Bascarsija is known as "pigeon square" - because it's full of pigeons. I'm not even sure what its proper name is, so I wasn't sure I was in the right place at first. There really weren't that many pigeons! Trafalgar Square on the other hand seems the perfect candidate for the moniker. Boris Johnson likes gimmicks, maybe I can convince him...

This afternoon I join a small tour to visit the Tunnel Museum. I openly admit to not having known very much about the conflict here, or the siege of Sarajevo. Most of what I arrived here knowing I had only found out when I was researching for the trip. I had, however, seen BBC footage of sniper alley, which kept playing through my mind as if on repeat this afternoon. Especially when I found myself being driven along that stretch of road.

I am vaguely aware that people who know me probably aren't that surprised anymore when I tell them the next 'unusual' holiday destination I've picked for myself. But I still seem to be. I never thought when I watched those old newsreels that I would visit the places they showed. Drive past the custard yellow Holiday Inn where the journalists reporting on the conflict were based, or past the shattered ruins of an old people's home that was completely devastated by shelling. Beyond belief.

So I definitely never thought I'd be walking through a preserved section of the "Tunnel of Life". The tunnel was dug by hand and covered a distance of just 800m, running under the UN controlled airport runway and connecting the city with the outside (non-Serb controlled) world during the siege of the city. A lifeline.

I'm glad I went there with a guide as it added a lot of depth and insights I wouldn't otherwise have had. Details like the fact that the reason Sarajevo's trams are such a mishmash of different makes, models, colours, and ages (although predominantly ancient) is because most of the trams were destroyed during the conflict - having been lined up along sniper alley in an attempt to provide some cover for people - and so the ones in operation now were all donated by other countries after the war ended. Knowing details like that changes the way you look at things.

Maybe it's clich├ęd to say it, but it has been a bit of a humbling experience visiting Sarajevo and Mostar.

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