25 August 2008

Sarajevo Walking Tour

I'm staying at Harris Youth Hostel in Sarajevo, and this man is a legend. Even from Zagreb I have been hearing about how awesome his walking tour is, and how I MUST take it. The tour was not disappointing at all, we got a personalized view of the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s - one of the biggest reason Sarajevo is so famous as well as a good insight into the history and culture of the city.

Our first stop was the Tunnel Museum near the Sarajevo airport. While the city was under siege, the people of Sarajevo built a tunnel that linked the airport to the city. It was a complete lifeline for the city bringing in food, water, electricity and telephone communications. The UN had protected the airport, but would not let the Bosnians in or out of the city via the airport. We were able to walk a very small part of the tunnel, seeing what it would have been like to try to bring food and water back to your starving town.

During the siege of Sarajevo over 11,000 people were killed and almost half were children. Its hard to believe that this occurred within our lifetime, and also that locals I meet here who are my age remember trying to dodge sniper bullets when they were younger.

Our next stop was Sniper Alley, which is where many people had to go through to get to the food hand-outs since the entire city was cut off from the world. As you would guess from the name, this is where many people, including women and children were killed randomly by snipers sitting in the hills above Sarajevo. Many buildings in the city are still riddled with bullet holes and there are also markings from mortar attacks in the city. Walking on the sidewalk you often see red paint where mortar attacks occurred. These are called Sarajevo Roses and mark where mortar attacks occurred that were generally very deadly.

Our next stop was the bombed out parliament building....today a new modern glass one stands right next to it. Also down the block is probably the most famous Holiday Inn in the world. Although the Serbians initially bombed the building, the UN later protected it and it became the place where journalists who were covering Sarajevo stayed.

Sarajevo was also famous for hosting the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, and almost every venue created for the games was destroyed be the Serbians. Today, many have been rebuilt since the war ended - exactly as they used to be. Our tour took us to the Olympic Stadium.

Lastly, our tour ended in the Turkish part of town where many of the markets and bizarres are. We also had traditional Bosnian food, which again involves much meat. One of the dishes has small sausages and onions and cheese stuffed into a pita-type bread. Its great energy for the day.

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