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I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia for three days and in many ways I feel like my life is now divided into Before Sarajevo and After Sarajevo. It was a perfect storm for a perfect trip: traveling with my mom, without small children in tow, to a richly historical and fascinating city, for an exciting and meaningful purpose: to attend the opening of my friend’s art installation at the Historical Museum of Sarajevo. My mom and I dove right in and didn’t hardly come up for air. Even back at the airbnb, we were looking up bits and pieces of history on Wikipedia and calling out the best parts to each other. We ate, walked, slept, and dreamed Sarajevo.
Imagine you bottled up Damascus, Istanbul, and Vienna, shook it around, and poured the contents out into a dramatic mountain valley bisected lengthwise by a river: SARAJEVO. It was at once oddly familiar and yet totally, completely exotic. Since my friend’s exhibit centered on her experiences of the siege of Sarajevo from 1992-1995, my mom and I focused our sightseeing on that period of history.
See? A little bit Middle East, a little bit Europe.
These are shell impacts and they are all over the city. This one has been filled in and highlighted but others are just…there. This particular shell killed people standing in a bread line downtown.
We went to the museum about the Srebrenica massacre (8000+ Bosnian Muslims were killed by the Serbian army under the semi-watch of Dutch UN troops, it was truly horrible). These walls show the names of those who were killed or who are simply still missing, 23 years later.
Logavina Street! Barbara Demick wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about this street and it is amazing and you should read it.
The Sarajevo War Childhood Museum: heartbreaking in its simplicity. It is just a collection of 50 objects donated by children who survived the siege, each with a small placard telling its story.
The Sarajevo Brewery. If you read any account of the siege years, you know that people risked shelling and sniper fire to come here and collect water in plastic jugs.
The 1984 Sarajevo Olympics bobsled track. It is a hulk of a ruin now and snakes down the mountain on the south side of town. There are mortal shell pockmarks and empty bunkers up there as well - very eerie.
Many of the photographs taken during the siege show people crossing this bridge, but clinging to the side girders since the wooden bottom had burned out.
Some of the city has been completely repaired, some is mostly repaired with occasional shell marks remaining, and some is still burned out like this.
The last thing we did before leaving was a visit to the airport tunnel. This was the only way in and out of the city during the worst years of the siege, and is how my friend escaped in 1995. The entrance and exit were inside of private homes, and while the Serbs knew there was some way that people and goods were getting in and out, the tunnel was able to funtion throughout the siege.
Those are just a few highlights of siege-era sightseeing in Sarajevo.