Sarajevo is a true meeting of the East and the West. Founded by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century, the city attracted people of diverse cultures and religions. In the late 19th century it was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both eastern and western cultures come together in the center of the city.
Behind our hotel was a pedestrian shopping street.
Painted on the street is this sign.
And from this point on, the street becomes an open-air Turkish bazaar.
70% percent of the population of Sarajevo is Muslim and turrets are everywhere. We visited a mosque known to be one of the most beautiful examples of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans.
At a war museum in Sarajevo we learned about the Srebrenica Massacre/Genocide that took place in July 1995 when Serbian soldiers killed 8000 unarmed Muslim men and boys. When news of this atrocity went public, President Clinton stepped in to end the war. Because the town of Srebrenica was designated as a “safe city” by the UN, no one was allowed weapons. But the Bosnian Serbs put the women and children in concentration camps. When the men and boys who were left in the city learned that the soldiers might come after them, they tried to escape into the mountains but were chased down and executed by the solders. There were 8300 victims. The story is chilling.
Remains of the dead are still being discovered in the mountains.
We learned more about the Bosnian-Serb War and specifically the 3.5 year siege of Sarajevo. We saw buildings in Sarajevo pocked with bullet holes and a few buildings in ruins that were never rebuilt. By the conclusion of the war, 80% of the buildings were uninhabitable. We also learned how dangerous it was for people in the city to get by during the years of the siege. Only a small area near the airport provided a way out, but only through the underground tunnel, The Tunnel of Hope.
The map shows how the city was surrounded and was being fired on daily. As people tried to carry on with their daily lives, they were fired upon. They lived day to day, hour to hour. The only access to the city was at the airport, but that was under the control of the UN and was neutral. In 1993 the Bosnian soldiers dug a tunnel under the airport with shovels and pick axes and removed 1200 cubric metres of soil with wheel barrels. The men worked 24 hours a day in 8 hour shifts between March and June. Tracks were laid so that carts could easily move through the tunnel and pipes were installed to provide Sarajevo with oil, electricity, and telephone lines.
The yellow line is the tunnel.
This is the house that was donated by a family outside of the airport. It is now a small museum where visitors can see the tunnel.
We walked through a short bit of the tunnel. It was low and narrow!
Carts were used to take out the injured and to bring in food and medical supplies in to the city.
This was a display showing where the tunnel ran under the airport (yellow line.)
On several occasions I saw splashes of red paint on the ground. These are memorials for people who lost their lives on those spots. They are known as the Sarajevo Roses. There were 100 roses painted around the city, but of course that was only symbolic because thousands lost their lives.
As we departed Sarajevo we passed this huge cemetery, just one in the city as a result of the recent war. The white head stones are Muslim graves and the darker ones are primarily Catholics. The trees hide the size of the cemetery.
As a result of the Dayton Agreement which ended the war, the country now consists of the federations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. Each area has its own President and decisions for the country are made by these leaders, but only if they all agree. You can imagine the problems this has caused because of the rivalries – nothing gets down. This is a sad situation that needs a solution.