Situated amongst high alpine peaks, green pastures and sweeping forests, the beautiful city of Sarajevo has been the scene of some of Europe’s most significant political conflicts and confrontations. There is no hiding it; Sarajevo’s history is littered with war, aversion and prejudice. The city streets narrate this history all too well as mass graveyards containing the bodies of men, women and children of all races, religions and creeds sprawl from one hillside cemetery to another. Abandoned buildings destroyed by the conflicts of war stand inadvertently beside schools, houses and shiny new shopping malls. However amongst the obvious damage, Sarajevo stands tall. And the idea of visibly wearing the scars of yesterday’s conflicts to ensure the same mistakes will never happen again, is at its very core.
Arriving in Sarajevo on a dreary Tuesday morning, we traded our cosy sleeping chamber (Willy our campervan) for a luxurious hostel room just outside Sarajevo’s Old Town. After a few hours of well-earned rest, we finally left our comfortable confines to take a brief wander through the narrow Sarajevo streets before indulging in a traditional Bosnian dinner, in the form of a ćevapi.
The following morning we emerged at the front door of our hostel and were greeted by a pack of eight hefty street dogs lying sprawled across the pedestrian walkway. After cautiously stepping around the stray canines, we began our stroll downhill and noticed the clouds that lingered the day before had lifted to reveal a hazy mountainous landscape. We enjoyed the refreshing weather on our morning stroll, before stopping for a hearty breakfast that included a robust local Bosnian coffee.
For the first time in over three 3 weeks on the road, we had the pleasure of being chauffeured around town by “Sarajevo Funky Tours”. We booked ourselves on the 5-hour “Siege Tour” that whisked us around to almost every corner of Sarajevo while informing us on the cities turbulent past. The tour provided us with a fantastic overview of Sarajevo’s geography and was well worth the admittance price just to be driven to places in Sarajevo we wouldn’t have found on our own like the site of 1984 Olympic Bobsled Track.
Perched atop a mountain not far from central Sarajevo, the old bobsled track is a sight to be seen. Overgrown with mossy vegetation and vibrantly coloured with graffiti, we walked the 1800 metres of the bobsled track from top to bottom enjoying the solitude of nature and the stunning views over Sarajevo below.
In whole the tour provided us with a great historical overview of Sarajevo’s past, while informing us on life during The Bosnian War. This included personal accounts and insights from our tour guide, who was 14 at the time of the conflicts. He approached the topic with a positive sensibility and light-heartiness, which was inspiring to see.
There is no doubt that Sarajevo is an extremely complex city. The tattered décor of its turbulent past showcases mankind’s most basic failures and frailties, while its contemporary multicultural existence proves that there are still faint glimmers of civilisation remaining in the vast slaughterhouse of humanity.
After all, war, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.