SNIPER ALLEY, THEN AND NOW

Trip Start Sep 14, 2012
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Trip End Oct 15, 2012


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Where I stayed
Skend Pension
What I did
Sniper Alley and the 'Tunnel of Life'

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Not the best sleep: blanket felt warm c 0100 and then Arjan was almost whistling as he breathed out, keeping me awake long enough for the local dogs to have a barkathon.

Eventually up around 0545. Lots of hot water for my short shower, the worry being the drain was not clearing water away very fast re possible spillage. Did the diary and blog for the better part of an hour, nicely timed with Arjan's arrival for brekkie. Just slight variations on the brekkie fare. We did our dishes thereafter as thought that was required in a pension setting.

During brekkie, Natalie asked to use our washroom. She looked like Donna Summer with hair all over the place; eek! Managed to catch some of the F1 race [lap summaries] before we had to leave. Nice shorts, Bozo Ben [rolled up pant legs].

0900 departure with Mohammed for our 'tunnel tour'. Information en route to our stop near the airport was provided in rapid fire by our outgoing host. The Holiday Inn, garish in colour, was the place 1984 Olympic VIP's stayed as well as Balkan War commentators. The National Museum closed three days ago as the staff hadn't been paid in four years.

We headed west on Obala Kulina Bana, known during the Balkan War as 'Sniper's Alley': you crossed it at your peril. Mohammed mocked the Soviet-styled buildings, calling them 'post-human architecture'.

The basis of the Balkan War was the resurgence in Serbia of the 'great Serbia' theme from the 19th century. If an area tried to secede from the old Yugoslavia that had a considerable Serbian population, then President Milosevic felt it was his responsibility to protect the interests of the Serb minorities in those area. Mohammed prattled on at a mile a minute pace, only interrupted by the occasional phone call he would take, others held off when he put the phone up to his mouth so the caller could hear he was with a tour group.

The 'tunnel of life' was in Butmir. 65k of siege lines surrounded most of Sarajevo. The only area connecting Sarajevo to Bosnian-controlled territory was to the mountains to the south of the city. Three large attacks in '92 failed to capture the city.

There are many vagaries even today as to why the Serbs ceded the airport to the UN, the one favoured by Mohammed being Serbia got 50% of all supplies coming in on UN flights.

The city tried to live a normal life. There was even in '94 a Miss [Surrounded] Sarajevo beauty pageant.

What saved the city more than the UN was the tunnel: 800m long, 1.6m high and 1m wide. Its Bosnian terminus was the Kolar family home, near the airport, right under the guns of the Serbians. The UN knew of the tunnel but kept it quiet. The Serbians likewise knew there was a tunnel but they never actually found it. It carried lines for electricity, fuel and phone. We were able to walke a 25m section of it. Men carried 50k backpacks filled with everything imaginable. It would take 45 to 75 minutes to traverse same. Some 4,000 trips were made a day through the tunnel. Water was a constant problem.

Mohammed recalled his mischievous youth. He was 10 years old when the war broke out. He was house bound. When his mother was in hospital, he put sleeping pills in his grandmother's tea and went outside to play. He was hit by mortar debris, still having three scars on his legs. When his mother got home, in his words 'she beat the shit out of me'.

We watched a short video on the shelling of the city and the construction/use of the tunnel. All in all, it was a good tour. Mohammed described the tunnel as the greatest symbol of Sarajevo's resistance.

Returning, it was easy to notice may bullet holes on buildings plastered over. The tram system dates from 1895 and is the second oldest in Europe.

Mohammed described the Dayton peace accord as convoluted re Bosnian politics. Somehow things have succeeded.

Arjan and I walked into town. We missed the area to start the ascent for views over the city, winding up going up the switchbacks used by cars. Any higher points were not available. The views were good if a bit hazy.

Arjan spotted the hangovers at Cevabdziniac Kurt so we tried the local specialty of little sausages and [strong] onions in a large pita shell. Arjan will continue as my banker and I will pay him back in euros, no money exchanges seemingly open on the Sunday.

Walking around the old town we saw the Aussie boys twice [about twice too often], the Aussie couple Ian and Jill [very pleasant] and the hangovers [if looks could kill].

We eventually went across the river to the Sarajevska Brewery, a spot Mohammed had mentioned was quite nice. The place was spacious and the menu prices seemed okay. The waiter was good enough to mention to me a 'large' beer was a litre. Arjan and I each had a .5 amber. He liked it more than I did. We both agree on the three new sets of Aussies re preferences: #1 are Ian/Jill, a distant #2 are the Aussie blokes and a decided #3 are Bozo Ben and Justine. We both did our best impressions of Rachel ordering [yet another] Sprite.

We got back a bit before 1600. I did the diary while Arjan got some beauty sleep. Another email from Don Juan was welcome.

Turkish cooking lesson! The grandmother and her grandson were the stars: the one with the cooking tips; the other, providing the translation about whether the boys or the girls were doing the best. We had to stuff rings of onion, collard and small peppers. There was a short break before dinner was served. We each got two of the prepared servings. There was a little salad and bread to soak up the excellent juices. White wine polished off the main meal.

Dessert consisted of baklava and Turkish coffee. Jill seemed surprised that I would not find out what people do for a living. There was discussion about 'No kangaroos in Austria' shirts, Arjan noting there was none in the size of Rose and Catherine, prompting me to burst out laughing but Madame Nathalie sat Rachel-faced.

The Aussie blokes went out for a drink. Arjan wanted to go out for a walk so we went as far as the Archduke Ferdinant assassination intersection and returned. Sniper Alley was turned into a speed zone for some motorists.

Ran into the Aussie blokes sitting outside. I kidded John that Rachel wanted him. They were snickering at the Bozo Ben and Justine show. Gavin in particular was surprised at the daily effort re a diary/blog. We left them to their drinking devices.

Back around 2200 to check American football scores, finish the diary and upload it to the blog, bagging out after 2230.

  
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