Published: August 3rd 2010August 3rd 2010
Outside the Olympic Stadium
Sarajevo was host to the Winter Olympic Games in 1984.
Sarajevo - then and now
This summer we have been travelling around in the Balkans for three weeks. We visited four different countries namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. Here in the blog we will start by telling you what we did in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The first city we visited in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the capital Sarajevo. For Emma this was the first visit to Sarajevo but not for Ake. Ake travelled in central Europe in 1997 and one of the places he visited then was Sarajevo. Sarajevo then and Sarajevo now are two very different cities. In 1997 Sarajevo was a city of ruins after having been under siege from April 1992 to February 1996. Today Sarajevo is rebuilt and repaired and there is very little that reminds a visitor of the war in the early 90-ies. We will come back to all of that later on.
No matter what you think of Sarajevo, we want to point out that first and foremost it is a major city in Central Europe and it looks and feels like many other major cities in Central Europe. It is a relaxed place and we liked Sarajevo
City in Central Europe
Sarajevo is a major city in Central Europe and it looks and feels like many other major cities in Central Europe
In Sarajevo there are a couple of bridges. One is named Most Isgraden but is also nicknamed "the Eiffel Bridge". According to legend the bridge was built by Gustave Eiffel. Supposedly he had this bridge in Sarajevo constructed to test the construction technique that he would later use when building the Eiffel Tower. How much of this that is true we don't know. The tourist information in Sarajevo confirmed the legend but also added that they have not been able to verify the truth in it.
Over the years a few historical events have taken place in Sarajevo and they have formed the city to what it is today.
For instance, in 1984 Sarajevo was the host of the Winter Olympic Games
. These Olympic Games we Swedes remember for the duel on 50 km cross country skiing between the two gigants Thomas Wassberg and Gunde Svan. That was back in the good old days when cross country skiing was still a sport for real men.
In the history books Sarajevo is noted for being the place where Gavrilo Princip
shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
, an event that often is said to
City in Europe
This could be Stockholm, Berlin, Paris or Madrid. It is Sarajevo. It isn't much different from other cities in Europe
be the trigger that started World War I. On the place where the assassination took place there is a sign on a wall marking the event.
The most recent event that has formed Sarajevo is the Bosnian War and the siege of Sarajevo. In April 1992 Serbian forces surrounded Sarajevo and for almost four years they held the city of Sarajevo in a siege. All around Sarajevo there are high mountains and from these mountains Serbian artillery fired hundreds of grenades every day on targets in the city. On numeral occasions shells fell on market places and football games killing a high number of civilians. Positioned on the hills were also snipers trying to take out anyone visible to them. One street in Sarajevo was particularly good for the snipers to take aim at people. This street is nicknamed Sniper Alley.
During the beginning of the siege the Bosnians dug a tunnel under the Sarajevo airport. For a long time this tunnel was the only way in and out of the city and it was also the only way it was possible to get food into Sarajevo. Today only a small section, about 25 meters, of this tunnel
The Eiffel Bridge
According to legend this bridge in central Sarajevo was built by Gustave Eiffel
is left and it is part of the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. Back in 1997 the entire tunnel was still there and Ake had a chance to have a look into the tunnel from the end that today no longer exist.
When Ake was in Sarajevo in 1997 most houses in the city were more or less damaged from the war. The train station and the parliament building were burned out shells. There were explosion marks, so called Sarajevo Roses, on the streets. Many houses had sand bags in the windows. Some districts in the city were so damaged that not a single house could be used.
Today a visitor who doesn't know what to look for might not even realise that there was a war less than 20 years ago. Many streets have been repaved and with that most of the Sarajevo Roses disappeared. Most houses have been repaired and the few buildings that still have scars from the war you hardly notice unless you look for them. The parliament building is in use and so is the train station. They have been completely renovated and there is, as far as we could see, no trace of the
It was next to this bridge Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
war there. But what we would like to know is, when they renovated the train station why couldn't they arrange so that you buy breakfast there because you can't. And that is somewhat irritating when you have an early train.
Sarajevo was for a long time a place where people with different ethnic background could live together. It didn't matter if you were a Serb, a Muslim or a Croat you could live in Sarajevo. How it is now we don't know. We can guess that the mental scars from the war don't heal quite as fast as the scars in various buildings in Sarajevo. If we had been living in Sarajevo for all of the 1.425 days the siege lasted and knew that the Serbs threw an average of 329 bombs a day on the city we were living in we would not be very forgiving.
We know very little about the Bosnian War. From the little we learnt when we were in Sarajevo we realised that it is very complicated. On the surface you might think that the war was about religion. Supposedly the Serbs are Orthodox, the Muslims believe in Islam and the Croats are
Place of the assassination
When the car with Franz Ferdinand and his wife stopped right in front of Gavrilo Princip he became so terrified that he wet his pants
Catholics. But religion was never really the issue. The religion might be the easy way to differentiate between the various ethnic groups but it was not what they were fighting about. So what were they fighting about? Well, to get the answer on that question you have to ask someone else because we don't know and we don't really care. Whatever reasons they might have had it can not possibly justify what happened to the people in Sarajevo
There are more photos below