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We visited Sarajevo 20 years after the Siege of Sarajevo and realized it’s a city that is still very much in recovery. Although it seems nearly impossible to visit Sarajevo without at least some knowledge of the war that occurred there, it would be equally impossible to go and not notice the marks left from almost four years of fighting. Everywhere we looked, we saw reminders of war; bullet holes in buildings, hillside graveyards and heartbreaking monuments.
In Sarajevo, bullet holes covering the sides of buildings are a common sight.
Nothing more than the shell of this building remains near Sarajevo’s old town. A tall tree has taken root inside the empty structure.
After the war, hundreds of indentations were left on sidewalks from large mortar blasts. Rather than immediately repairing the damaged areas, the marks were filled with red resin and these memorials were named Sarajevo Roses. As time has passed, many of the sidewalks have been replaced and only a few Sarajevo Roses remain today.
An abandoned, bombed-out hotel sits on the hillside and is slowly being taken over by nature.
Bosnian Serb forces used the remains of the 1984 Olympic bobsled track on the side of the mountain as an artillary position during the war. Most of the track remains intact, but a large section was blasted with gunfire.
Graveyards with headstones bearing dates of birth and death much too close together are an unfortunate common sight in Sarajevo. The child buried beneath these pretty yellow flowers lived only 10 years, from 1982 until 1992.
During the war, desperate Sarajevans cut down many trees in order to use the wood for cooking and warmth in the winter, which left fields of open, vacant spaces. The cleared land has been used as burial grounds for those who died in the war and since.
Open land near the Olympic Stadium is now an expansive graveyard.
The Markale covered market operates as usual now, but during the war it endured two bombings that targeted Sarajevo civilians. The first was in February 1994 and killed 67; the second was in August 1995 and killed 43. The civilian casualties are said to have prompted NATO to intervene and aid in bringing an end to the war. A plaque in the back of the market bears the names of the victims.
This cheeky, post-war art installment was modeled after the canned ‘mystery’ meat that was provided by international aid. Perhaps not all are in agreement with the art’s representation…or vandals are just jerks.
The bold yellow Holiday Inn was built for the 1984 Olympics, but was in the heart of the most dangerous area during the war, best known as Sniper Alley. Today, the building no longer bears the name of the hotel chain and it’s ownership is uncertain. The doors, however, are open. When we peeked inside, we found a dark and unmanned reservation desk and two lonely waiters in the lounge.
Sarajevo’s city hall and library building, which was built in 1896, was destroyed by artillery and fire in 1992. It is estimated that 2 million written documents, some rare and irreplaceable, were lost. It took more than two decades to complete, but the building was reconstructed in the original style and reopened in 2014.
A poignant plaque at the entrance to the recently reopened city hall and library building.
A fading plaque on the bridge names the first two victims of the war, Suada Dilberovic and Olga Sucic, who were killed on the bridge by snipers during a peace rally. The bridge has since been renamed after them. However, the bridge is often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet Bridge, as two young lovers – one Bosniak, one Serb – tried to escape the war, but were shot as they were running across the bridge. Their embraced corpses remained on the bridge for several days before it was safe to move them.
This momunment in Sarajevo pays tribute to the victims of genocide in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. The sign reads, “One of the most horrific scenes of the Srebrenica genocide against innocent Bosniak population is a scene when the father Ramo call to his son Nermin to surrender to the Serbian soldiers as allegedly they will not do any harm to them. Exhumation team found Ramo and son Nermin in a mass grave near Srebrenica in 2008.”
A memorial names the children in Sarajevo who were killed during the war.
The heart wrenching Memorial to the Children of Sarajevo sits beautifully in a park and honors the more than 1,500 children who were killed during the Siege of Sarajevo. In the basin are the footprints of the younger siblings of the children who died. Today, kids play in the area around the fountain.
Are you visiting Sarajevo? Want to know what to see and eat? Read about Sights to See in Sarajevo and Sarajevo Cuisine.
We want to know: Have you seen Sarajevo in the years after the Siege of Sarajevo? Did you visit there before? Tell us about it in the comments!