Good morning! I hope you’re well-rested after a long Day 1 in Sarajevo, because there’s plenty on this Day 2 agenda as well. Let’s get started:
Morning: Tunnel of Hope Tour
Meet your guide from Sarajevo Funky Tours at 9am for this half-day excursion to the Tunnel of Hope. It starts with a drive out towards the airport, during which time you can ask your guide any questions that may have popped into your head after your introduction to the Bosnian War yesterday.
When you arrive at the Tunnel of Hope, you’ll see a few videos and small exhibits about life during wartime. You’ll learn about rations, land mines, and the actual Tunnel itself. The Tunnel was the only way in and out of Sarajevo during the siege, and you’ll get to duck through the remaining portion to get a taste of how that journey would have felt during the war. My guide told us stories of his experience growing up during war times: how he hated the canned food rations, how people were so cold they would burn books and shoes to keep their stoves running, and how he and his friends were so desensitized to violence that they would jump on the tank land mines for fun.
After visiting the Tunnel, it’s back to the van for a few other sights: you’ll drive up to the bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics (you can walk along the track and enjoy the diverse graffiti that has accumulated over the years), visit a bombed-out restaurant to see the full extent of the destruction that happened here, and stop at a Jewish cemetery where Serbian snipers positioned themselves above the city. It’s a fantastic, although saddening, way to see more of the War’s impact.
P.S. I personally recommend Sarajevo Funky Tours because that’s the company I chose and my experience was wonderful, but there are other companies that do similar tours. Feel free to do some comparison shopping at the various agencies in town.
Lunchtime: Piljaca Markale and Gradska Tržnica
Time to learn some Bosnian words! Piljaca Markale means “produce market” while Gradska Tržnica means “city market.” They’re right next to each other in the heart of the city center, so you can conveniently pick up some meat, cheese, and produce in one quick trip. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb that has a kitchen, you can cook yourself a tasty lunch with these fresh foods. Otherwise, grab options that can be eaten as a picnic and hit up a pekara (bakery) for some bread to complete the meal.
Afternoon: Trg Oslobođenja Alija Izetbegović
Take your picnic across Ferhadija street and nibble on your lunch while enjoying one of my favorite free entertainment options in Sarajevo: watching hordes of middle-aged and elderly Bosnian men get really riled up about chess. I can’t understand what they’re saying, of course, but it’s obvious that they’re coaching each other, snickering about moves that one player doesn’t see coming, and probably even gossiping about the competitors. When a round ends, it’s a mad scramble to join in the next match. It’s fascinating.
Once you’ve finished eating, tear yourself away from the chess drama and cross the square to the yellow cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos. There’s a charge for tourists but not for locals, so do the sign of the cross when you enter to blend in. It’s small but ornately decorated, so spend a few minutes taking it all in.
Fun fact: I had to look up the name of this place on Google Maps because I never saw a sign for it–in my head I call it “the park on Ferhadija with the giant chess board,” which, frankly, will probably be a more helpful description for getting there even though Google doesn’t mark it as a park/green space.
Early evening: 11/07/95 Gallery
Cross back over Ferhadija to the 11/07/95 Gallery, another must-do exhibit about the Bosnian War and the subsequent Srebrenica massacre. Bosnian Serbs killed over 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in a two-week period in July 1995. Most information about the war glosses over this huge ethnic cleansing movement, so the gallery is your best opportunity to learn about what happened in the ironically UN-designated safe zone of Srebrenica.
My best tips about the gallery are to 1) pay the extra few marks for the audio guide, which goes in depth about each photograph in the gallery and 2) spend the time to watch the movies playing in the center of the room. Some are short films and some are slideshows, but they all help your understanding of the event. The gallery also does temporary exhibitions–when I went, it was a series of “Postcards from Sarajevo” that turn famous images into social commentary about the war.
Grab some dinner to finish out Day 2 and rest up for another busy day in Sarajevo. Day 3 is coming!
Missed Day 1 of your Sarajevo itinerary? Click here.