A Sarajevo Rose is a concrete scar caused by a mortar shell’s explosion that was later filled with red resin. Mortar rounds landing on concrete create a unique fragmentation pattern that looks almost floral in arrangement. Because Sarajevo was a site of intense urban warfare and suffered thousands of shell explosions during the Siege of Sarajevo, the marked concrete patterns are a unique feature to the city. — Wikipedia.
While silliness ensued at our first day in Sarajevo, today would present itself as a more somber affair, beginning our day with Sarajevo Insider’s Times Of Misfortune Tour that led us on a 3 hour journey through the horrors of living under Serbia’s nearly 4 year siege upon Sarajevo from 1992-1995.
Our tour first returned us to the Yellow Fortress and then onwards to the White Fortress, learning from our guide Almedin “Meme” Memovic — who was born and raised during the siege in 1993 — about the factors during the post-Tito breakup of Yugoslavia that would eventually descend into genocide
The views of Sarajevo from White Fortress gave us a better insight of what the siege may have looked like from afar and how Sarajevo was surrounded by incoming Serbian forces.
Meme recalled for us the days of Sniper Alley as we drove down it, where 1.2km of a main boulevard along Zmaja od Bosne Street and Meša Selimović Boulevard were lined with snipers that targeted civilians as they went about their daily life.
Because the road connected the industrial part of the city and Sarajevo Airport to Old Town, it was a necessary street for locals to traverse despite the obvious danger from the many high-rise buildings and mountains surrounding the city that gave snipers plenty of opportunity to gun people down. Signs reading “Pazi – Snajper!” (“Watch out – Sniper!”) were posted everywhere.
This is Sniper Alley today:
Because the city was under constant Serb siege and the civilians of Sarajevo had to routinely risk their lives to move about the city in order to survive, people would either sprint across the street or wait for United Nations armored vehicles so they could walk behind them as shields.
In 1995, 1,030 people were wounded and 225 were killed by sniper fire, 60 of whom were children.
You can still see the bullet holes made by errant sniper fire today.
As the city continued to be surrounded from all sides by Serbian forces, with a narrow chokepoint centered on the UN-occupied international airport, it barely survived upon the food and supplies that were shuttled through a 1m-wide, 800m-long, 1.6m-high, lifeline of a tunnel, which was hastily constructed underneath the airport.
Therefore our next stop after Sniper Alley would be the Tunnel of Hope, where 20m of the 800m tunnel still remains despite a complete collapse of the rest of the tunnel.
We spent about half an hour here before returning to the city to try the legendary Ćevapi at Zeljo.
The next part of our plan was to find cabs to take us to the nearby abandoned bobsled track of the 1984 Winter Olympics. But after an hour waiting for available cabs to take us there, we eventually dispersed into free time in Old Town as not a single taxi was available due to the Sarajevo Film Festival.
However, by sheer dumb luck about another hour later, the hostel receptionist and I luckily snagged 4 cabs all at once on the street, where I promptly mass texted everyone to run back from where they were in the city. And by additional sheer dumb luck (or destiny), within 5 minutes of my text all 14 of us were able to get into all 4 cabs before they decided to pull away. Hence, our own little miracle in Sarajevo.
And off we explored for an hour one of the highlights of our trip: the aforementioned Abandoned Bobsled Track of the 1984 Winter Olympics:
Surreal. After a day like this we had to celebrate. And we did: We pregamed, we rallied, and we raged.
A recommendation made by Berina (once again who lamed out early because of something called WORK . . .yeah yeah) was to watch live music go down at Underground, featuring some local crowdpleasing Bosnian cover bands.
The 13 of us then headed onwards to Cinemas Sloga where although they initially charged us 15km per person for entry, we stood our ground. Then it went down to 75km for 11 people. And yet we persisted. Then it became free.
And then we got backstage passes…? That escalated quickly.
We eventually returned home in the wee hours of the morning, screaming over the ringing in our ears like typically obnoxious Americans, in an otherwise eerily quiet capital city.
Tomorrow we forge ahead to Mostar.
–UPDATE: The next morning we woke up to this on our social media: