Historical Highlights Of Sarajevo, Bosnia And Hercegovina
Before my trip to Bosnia & Hercegovina I scoured the stores for a travel book to bring me up to speed on what to see and do during my time there. It came as a bummer (and bit of a shock, too) that there were really no travel books dedicated specifically to the country.
After shaking off my disappointment with the folks at Lonely Planet, I resorted to a traveler’s next best friend: Google. I searched “best walking tours in Bosnia” and immediately got links taking me to “Free Sarajevo Walking Tours” by a guy named Neno. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first…I mean, what of quality is really free anymore? But trusting the countless “excellent” ratings and rave reviews on TripAdvisor, I decided to give it a go. Not only did Neno’s walking tour completely exceed my expectations, he gave the city a personal touch that no guide book could have succeeded in doing.
I got a first account tour of the city that was under siege less than two decades ago from someone who lived his childhood through it. Neno shares the story of his city with such energy, compassion, and hope, it’s impossible not to look past the bullet hole scarred buildings and fall in love with Sarajevo, too. The 3.5 hour tour was extremely comprehensive, so while I won’t spoil the whole tour…(you’ll surely want to experience it for yourself on your next trip to Sarajevo), here are a few of the historical highlights that stuck with me:
Red Cross Letters
Days before the siege on Sarajevo started, someone wrote on the post office: “This is Serbia”. Someone else responded to that statement by scrawling underneath: “You fool, this is a post office.” The post office was one of the first buildings to be totally burned and destroyed, and with no working phone lines, the only mode of communication people had were letters hand delivered through the Red Cross. These letters had to remain very neutral, of course, without speaking much about the terror that was happening to Sarajevo and its people, but at least they were a way to let family members know that you were safe.
All around the city, you’ll see splashes of red on the concrete. These are not some artist’s idea of avant-garde street art, but rather mortars that shelled the city every day for almost four years. Red resin was filled in on spots where three or more people died. There are over 100 roses throughout Sarajevo.
Monument To The Children
Out of the 11,000 plus people who were killed during the siege on Sarajevo, over 1,000 of them were children. There is a monument to remember the children…a small green abstract figure guarded by a taller green one, symbolizing a mother protecting her child. Around the fountain are footprints of friends and family, made from shrapnel from the war.
1984 Winter Olympics
One of Sarajevo’s claim to fames is hosting the Winter Olympics in 1984. This is something residents are still very proud of, and reminders of the Olympian days can be found throughout the city. Perhaps the most famous reminder, who can still be found smiling at you on shirts, mugs, and pens inside souvenir shops is their Olympic mascot, a happy little blue wolf called Vucko.
Legend of the Mosque Water
Legend has it that if you drink the water from the fountain outside the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, you’ll return to the city one day. Needless to say, I wasn’t taking any chances, and got a nice, hydrating gulp. You’ll see tourists galore lined up to enjoy the cold water…perhaps because of the ridiculous heat wave that was going on, but I like to think they were all just ensuring their return to this amazing city.
I’ll leave you with something Neno said that resonated with me: “People should hope for a better tomorrow…we should try to forgive each other and move on, but not forget the history.” Well said, Neno. Well said.
To sign up for one of Neno’s tours, please visit his website. Although the tours are free, UsedYorkCity highly encourages you to tip graciously. He is just that good.
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen