Sarajevo, another history lesson

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
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Trip End Sep 30, 2010


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Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Monday, July 5, 2010

Think European old town and replace the churches with mosques, bell towers with minarets and add a water fountain to each square and you have Sarajevo.
Rather sadly, Sarajevo is usually associated with 2 wars. Firstly as the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking WWI and secondly the Bosnian war, when Sarajevo was under siege for 3 years. Thankfully these days it is quite a tranquil city, with fancy bars popping up all over the city and no traffic allowed in the old town, although many of the large open spaces are cemeteries from the 1990's.
 
The people in Sarajevo were amazingly friendly. We were met off the tram by a toothless old man who checked us into our hostel and from then on wherever we went in the old town he would pop up and ask us how the hostel was, and ask us to give it a good review online. We also met a delightful elderly couple when they invited us into their house to shelter from a daily downpour, not to mention the people who would stop to chat to us outside the bakery.

We took a bus up into the hilly suburbs and walked to the top of one of the hills, crowned by the ruins of a citadel. On one side were views over the old town, and distant skyscrapers, on the other side views into the mountains with multiple level highways and road tunnels disappearing amidst the foliage on the steep mountainside.
 
We also visited the tunnel museum, a reminder of the 1992-1995 war that saw Sarajevo under siege, held by Bosnian Muslims and surrounded on 3 sides by Serbs. The 4th side was bounded by the United Nations held airport runway. The 800m long tunnel, which unnervingly ran straight under the runway, was the only way of getting food to the people in the city. Now only 20m of it remain, after a runway cave in (not surprising really).
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