Sport and war: A surreal space in Sarajevo

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

One of the most melancholy and haunting experiences I've ever had: visiting the 1984 Olympic bobsleigh track in the hills above Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A new gondola lift opened just a few months ago - finally replacing the Olympic cable tram that was destroyed during the wartime siege of the city between 1992 - 1996.  I rode up on a grey, rainy, weekday afternoon.  The viewing area and restaurant atop Mount Trebević were shrouded in mist and deserted.After a short walk coming back down the mountain, the overgrown, graffiti covered, concrete bobsled/luge tracks can be seen winding in and out of the tall pine forest.  There is no fence, no security - nothing of value remains.  Some parts of the mossy, cement tubes have shifted or sunken, but you can still walk the whole length of the course.  On the wind, you can imagine the cheers of February, 1984 -- and the evil of the years thereafter.

At different points, the city center of Sarajevo can be glimpsed in the valley through the trees.  During the Bosnian war, the area was used by Bosnian Serb artillery units and snipers -- wrecking hell on the population below.  Near the Olympic finish line, some of the cities' numerous cemeteries can be seen on far-away hillsides.

Taking it all in made the hair on the back of my neck stand up more than once.   Being amidst the best and worst moments of mankind leaves one feeling somber, solemn, wistful... a recurrent theme in the living museum that is Sarajevo.  The graffiti messages add an odd measure of humanity and hope.

Continuing back down the well-marked mountainside trail there are some abandoned, war-ravaged buildings.  The unlikely possibility of land mines even crossed my mind.  And before getting back to town I walked right past one of the big cemeteries.  Unforgettable.

(This post originally appeared on the author’s private Facebook page, and then on the Earth Vagabonds Facebook group.)


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