Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. May 2019

Sarajevo has had a turbulent past, in a little more than a century it was part of eight different states: the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs; the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs; the Independent State of Croatia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One can’t write about a visit to Sarajevo without mentioning the recent war. The siege of Sarajevo started on 6 April 1992, when Serb forces began shelling the city, it was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, 1425 days.  By May 1992 the city was completely surrounded by Serb forces, including over 260 tanks, 120 mortars, machine guns known as “sowers of death”, multiple rocket launchers and snipers. I’ve copied this map from the website of the Tunnel of Hope Museum, which depicts the city under siege. The 29 February 1996 was the official end of the siege as declared by the Bosnian government. The war ended with the signing of the Dayton Accords on 21 November 1995 and the Paris Protocol on 14 December 1995. The reason that the siege was not declared as over when the agreement was signed was because the Serbs had not yet implemented the Dayton deal that required them to withdraw from areas north and west of Sarajevo as well as other parts of the city.

On May 2, 1992, in one of the worst attacks during the siege, dozens of important city buildings were destroyed, including the town post office, leaving the city without any telephone communication. Public transport was suspended and soon the city had no water supply, electricity or gas, and food supplies were running out. In January 1992 work started on excavating a tunnel under the runway of Sarajevo airport, it took more than six months to complete, using just pickaxes and shovels. The only source of light the workers had was provided by ‘war candles’, containers filled with cooking oil and fitted with a wick made from string. On the night of July 30, 1993, the tunnel was finally completed, giving Sarajevo an outlet to the world. The 800-meter-long corridor was a little over a meter wide and had an average height of 1.5 meters. The beleaguered city regained access to telephone lines, oil supplies, food and electricity through the tunnel. It is estimated that nineteen tons of food was brought into the city via the tunnel. After the war, about 20 meters of the tunnel became part of the museum which also contains many items from the time of the Siege.

Zmaja od Bosne is the main boulevard in Sarajevo and connects the industrial part of the city with the Old Town’s cultural and historic sites.  Known as ‘sniper alley’ during the war, because the road was lined with snipers posts who occupied the high rise buildings here, it became infamous as a dangerous place for civilians to traverse. Thankfully it is a much safer place to walk along today. The Parliament building, above in the foreground, was built in 1982, suffered heavy damage in the war and was reconstructed in 1998.

The war left sixty per cent of buildings either damaged or destroyed, eighty per cent of utilities disabled, and only a fifth of the city had water and power. A significant programme of renovation and rebuilding has been undertaken and although the majority of the city has been rebuilt or refurbished it is still possible to see war damaged buildings. The Avaz Twist Tower was built after the war, opening in 2002 and is the tallest building in Sarajevo, 175 meters high.

These are some of the buildings I liked, the Gradska Tržnica building, dating back to 1894, looks like a theatre, it is a market, situated in the centre of the city, selling meats and cheeses.

The Svrzina House is a typical example of Ottoman architecture in Sarajevo and of the home of a typical Muslim family in the late 18th and early 19th century. This house existed as early as 1640, in 1697 it was damaged by fire and was reconstructed during the 18th century.  The house was built by an upper-class family called Glodo from Sarajevo, the last owner from the family died in 1848 without a male heir so it passed, through marriage, to the Svrzo family. It was sold to the Museum of Sarajevo in the 1960s.

The home consists of a group of buildings forming a single complex, divided into selamluk; for public life and the reception of male guests and haremluk; for private and family life The house is furnished with original articles, some of which belonged to the family who last lived in the house.

2 thoughts on “Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. May 2019

  1. In 2004, I lived in Sarajevo for 6 months.
    I remember well the scars of war in the city, one being the tunnel museum, wich I visited.

    Thank you for this beautiful souvenir of the martyred city.


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