My first evening in Sarajevo, I took AK’s walking tour. An enlightening five-hour walk through the city, learning about it’s history from Ottoman rule to today. There were times where tears filled my eyes as he spoke of the war, the mortars, the Sarajevo roses that fill the holes were people were killed and serve as a memorial to the lives lost. AK, barely out of his teens, told his stories with the words of someone well beyond his years, with soul … with pain … with passion.
The next day, four people I had met from the tour and I decided to continue to explore the history of Sarajevo. We hopped on a tram, and then a bus, to the Tunnel museum.
During the war, Sarajevo was essentially cut off from supplies. Serbs controlled nearly all of the city, sans the airport, which was operated by the UN. On the other side of the runway was freedom. Sarajevo soldiers, in an attempt to get supplies, dug a tunnel under the runway. It was dangerous. The tunnel carried wires to provide energy and often times the narrow and low-ceilinged route was flooded.
The four of us first watched two videos in the museum, one showing soldiers haul supplies and people through the tunnel, and the other a collage of images during the war. Buildings being hit with mortars. The National Library with Sarajevo’s history in books, being burned. A woman shielding her baby in her arms as she ran to escape sniper fire. It all was gruesome. And real.
Then, we walked through the tunnel portion that was open and out into a field of grass outside the home which housed the underground path.
A clear view of the airport. The runway.
I looked around. Everywhere I turned were reminders of the fighting 20 years earlier — homes riddled with bullet holes and schrapnel scars from mortar attacks.
After the tunnel, we went to the History Museum, a building which still also bares the scars from the war. Upstairs there are two exhibits — one of the history of Sarajevo and one that shows the brutality via photos of the war – “Sarajevo Surrounded.”
The images were horrid. Bodies with intestines coming out. Letters and pictures from children depicting their living situations. Everything I saw brought to life the words AK had spoken the night before.
To lighten the day, we decided to go and see “Inception” that evening at a local theater.
A few of us, along with AK, headed to the theater ($4 USD for a Friday night screening) to decompress.
After, we went out to Cheers — yes, there is a Cheers in Sarajevo — where we sipped Sarajevsko and listened to the haunting voice of a local as she sang along to house music.
The next day, I finally worked towards solving my lack of music problem. I hauled it to an Apple store and ordered an iTouch.
“It could take five days to get here,” said the girl at the counter.
Five days in Sarajevo.
I looked outside at the water. At the pockmarked buildings. At the sun shining.
I can do five days here.
“No problem,” I said, smiling.
Then, I walked into the gorgeous Sarajevo afternoon.