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Dark past of the Balkans in Sarajevo

Today we were going for a bit of history to learn more about what happened in Bosnia in the 90s. We were headed to the tunnel museum, found near the airport right on the outskirts of Sarajevo. We took a number 3 tram all the way to the end of line, a place called Ilidza. Buying our tickets on the tram was easy and it was fun getting on the rickety vehicles. 

We arrived in Ilidza and knew we had to get a bus, but couldn’t see any timetables, so we asked at a kiosk and they were happy to give us bus stop number and times. We jumped on the bus and were taken round the suburbs till we got to a stop by a bridge, getting off we turned left after crossing over the bridge and it was a 5 minute walk down the street. It’s quite a way out if Sarajevo but worth the visit if you’re interested in learning more about what happened. 

It was around £5 to get in and is literally based in the house where the tunnel was built. The family still live there and help with tours of the museum! It’s thanks to them preserving the small bit of tunnel that’s left that there’s even a museum here. 

Showing just how surrounded Sarajevo was….just a few years after hosting the Winter olympics. The museum had different rooms with a lot of items from the siege including weaponry and examples of aid packages sent. I remember doing operation christmas child in school when I was young…filling shoeboxes with toys, sweets etc to send to Bosnia. 

The tunnel was the only way to get in and out of the city and to bring supplies in. NATO had control of the airport to bring in some aid but their agreement with the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) forces prevented any Bosnians from leaving. The YPA forces spent 1,425 days shelling the city, it’s incredible there’s even anything left. 

We walked through reading about the horrors for the siege. It’s so sad that people had been living alongside each other for hundreds of years, only for something like this to happen. It’s also a shame that as humans we don’t learn from our history. 

We found the tunnel entrance, it once went for 800m, filled with noxious gas and hard to breathe in, people wore gas masks. Low lighting and often part flooded. It was only the necessity of smuggling that got people to go through.  

It’s hard to imagine just how bad the tunnel would have been as we walked through. Though the lady who had just walked through left us a little gaseous gift to help us imagine. 

Done with the museum we decided to walk back to the station as it was such a lovely day. After almost being savaged by a dog that we soon realised was on a chain we made it safely to the station and hopped onto the tram, but not before the lady at the kiosk tried her best to rip us off! 

We made it back to the centre and decided to walk along the river to find the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, the match that lit the flames of WW1. 

There was a museum you could go into but we had other plans to walk up a hill overlooking Sarajevo. We stopped and grabbed some Cevapi first, our top food of the Balkans so far! At the top of this hill you could look out across the Dinaric alps that surround the city from a fortress called Bijela Tabija. Along the way you can also see the yellow fortress. 

To climb up to the two fortress ruins you get to pigeon square and then basically head uphill along a pedestrian street. Through a graveyard for people who had died in the war and presto! We were at the first viewpoint. 

It’s a small ruined tower that lots of people were sat on having picnics and enjoying the views from up high. Nearby is a restaurant that looks out over the city too.  

We carried on walking upwards, past the huge mansion like building and into little steep streets. Continuing to just head upwards we finally got to a tall stone gateway, going right we were at the fortress.  We looked out away from Sarajevo sat on a wall with a steep slope below us. 

We walked over to the main tower that’s left and climbed through one of the windows out to a ledge with the city beneath us. It was ace, and I love cities where you can get a birds-eye view of the place. I had a little vertigo up there at one point but the views soon distracted me. 

The actual fortress is pretty cool too, built in the 1500s to protect the old settlement found here, this side of the city was the historical entrance. 

After all the walking we stopped at a restaurant near to the fortress and got an ice cold beer. We planned the rest of the day, we were off to Belgrade at 6am, a 7 hour bus journey away. So we had to get to the bus station to buy tickets as the next bus was hours later. 

We said goodbye to the panoramic view and descended back down through the little streets, down the steps of the graveyard and back to pigeon square. We had really wanted to try a cake we’d seen other people eating, it consisted of a thin layer of sponge topped with a soft light meringue. Sampita is the name, and it is good! Sarah and I shared a piece and it was sugary and delicious, though I think it would have been too sickly to eat a whole one. 

We jumped the tram to the bus station and got our tickets. We walked back from the station trying to go a different way to see more of Sarajevo. 

Stopping off at a bar we had a look at what to do in Belgrade and the sort of food we should go for. Checking that there wasn’t anything else major to do in Sarajevo. 

We got some food and sandwiches to stock up for the bus journey and ended up in the same restaurant from the night before. Tonight we were trying lamb, cooked in traditional Bosnian style under a metal or ceramic lid with hot coals and ash heaped on top.  We got a salad and some more klepe to go with it. 

It was all really good again. The lamb and rice was delicious and cooked to perfection, we just wanted more of it. It was a bit more expensive than the meat platters etc but definitely worth a try. Bellies full it was time to try and get some sleep as we were up at 4:45am! 

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