Mongolia Rally Diary – day 9. War history in Sarajevo

We decided to spend the day in Sarajevo to get at least some impression from the city and to avoid driving in the heat in the middle of the day. After some lazy hours on the hostel and a lovely omelet sandwich for breakfast we had a stroll in town, and booked a trip with Inside travel to see the tunnel museum of Sarajevo. It is less than 20 years since the war ended in Bosnia, and we got the strong history of the city and the war from a great guide.

After the breakdown of Yugoslavia there were many wars fought between the republics who sought sovereignty and the other side that wanted to either prevent their independence or keep large chunks of their territory under its control. The Yugoslavian army was the world´s strongest army, and after the fall of Yugoslavia this army became the Serbian army. The wars ended in different stages, and Bosnia was in war for 1425 days, and more than 60% of the buildings of Sarajevo were destroyed during the war.

Serbia tried to control large parts of Bosnia, and Sarajevo was surrounded by Serbian forces – except from the airport area which was controlled by the UN. To survive in the city people depended on supplies, and a tunnel was built from the “free” Bosnian side with borders to Croatia over to the surrounded city center. The tunnel was 800 meters, and it took them more than 4 months to finish it. This tunnel was used for people to get their supplies from the “free” side, the army transported weapons and other necessary equipment, and people could cross the tunnel to escape the country. Even though the tunnel was helpful it was not risk free to leave your house in the city – in average more than 300 shells daily was sent towards the city center from the Serbian forces, in addition to gunshots and bombs. To survive, you had to get supplies though.

For me that have grown up in a peaceful country like Norway it is not possible to even imagine what this was like. It is a strong history, told by a dedicated guide which knew her history by heart and engaged her audience as she shuffled us around the museum. We walked through the 25 meters of tunnel which is still left, and she showed us photos and a video from war. As we approached the city center at the end of the tour she shared her personal experience with us: she was 5, 5 years when the war started and she grew up in a war zone until she and her mother passed the tunnel when she was 9 and escaped to Croatia, then to the US. One year later they were able to go home to Sarajevo.

Despite the 17 years which have passed since the war, the economics of Bosnia Herzegovina is still difficult. They have 44% of unemployment, and the organization is not very efficient: due to democracy to the extreme extent they have three presidents to represent the three main ethnicities in the country, and decisions are not easily made. I asked our guide how many people lived in Sarajevo, and she told us it was estimated to about 400 000, but it was impossible to say – they never had a census after 1991.

We were three thoughtful girls who ate fresh  Borek with spinach, potatoes and cheese sitting on the street of a reconstructed Sarajevo. As our guide put it: “We have talked a lot about buildings and destructions from the war, but buildings are easy to repair. For people it will take generations.”



About the Author Elin

I´m an Oslo based web publisher with passion for communication, travel and a green lifestyle. When I travel, I prefer to go slow, sustainable, and “live like a local”. Why slow? It is about challenging the cult of speed, and to enjoy the small things in life and to live in the present.

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