Sarajevo: Bobsled Track or Battlefield?

Sarajevo old olympic bobsled track exploring kiwis

Growing up, my main connection to Bosnia was through news coverage of the civil war that broke out across Yugoslavia.  At the time, I was too young to understand the reasons for the war but through our travels in the Balkans, we’ve developed a much better understanding of how and why things unfolded in the way they did and have been surprised to hear so many different perspectives on this period of time.

Of all the images I’ve seen since, the ones that cut closest to home were the photographs of the abandoned Winter Olympic venues that were repurposed for war… if a city that hosted the most iconic sporting event in history could break out into war, there was the potential for anywhere to suffer the same fate.

Sarajevo was on my must-see list in Eastern Europe – I was intrigued to see how the war had affected the city and it’s people and a visit up to the old bobsled track was top of that list.

On our way from Mostar to Sarajevo, we chatted to a pair of travellers working from the opposite direction to us.  They too had wanted to visit the old Olympic grounds but had been warned off by the guide that took them on the walking tour of Sarajevo – apparently there had been a real problem with armed muggings in the area, whereby hard-up locals wait for unsuspecting tourists.  If there’s one thing I am though, it’s determined and I certainly wasn’t going to give up that easily so on our walking tour we hit our guide up.

Could the old Sarajevo bobsled tracks really be that dangerous?  Surely not… After all, I’ve seen plenty of photos taken there on Instagram, as recently as a few days ago – what could go wrong?

Sure enough, our guide echoed the thoughts that were shared with us yesterday – muggings, dangerous, not worth it, blah, blah, blah.  The truth was, I’d seen photos online from the site, had set my heart on going and off we set.

We hailed a cab, ensured he had a meter (we’d already been reminded of the muddle one can get into by jumping into a taxi without one on this trip!) and headed for the hills.

Over the next twenty five minutes or so, we enjoyed getting to know our taxi driver better, a liberal Muslim Bosniak, born and raised in the city.  At 19, Eno was conscripted into the army in an effort to fight off the Serbian’s looking to invade Sarajevo; he was a fountain of first-hand knowledge and an absolute pleasure to talk to throughout the afternoon.

We asked Eno about the safety concerns that were relayed to us and the only issue he raised was that of landmines in the area.  We were advised to stay on the concrete and bobsled tracks, avoiding stepping out into the forrest, but apparently muggers didn’t even register as a concern with him – good news!

Arriving at the old bobsled track in the peace of the forest, any concerns we had about safety instantly melted away.  Initially we were the only people there and Nathan and I had the course to ourselves for a good twenty minutes or so before a couple of people came walking down the tracks from higher up.

Sarajevo old bobsled track

The tracks were in surprisingly good condition with their towering walls intact.  The forest was eerily quiet, providing the perfect backdrop for such a unique setting.

I don’t doubt that there have been run-ins on this old track in the past (and there probably will be again in the future), but what area hasn’t had an isolated incident or two?  Nobody can guarantee your safety but we can tell you that we felt absolutely safe up there and had a great time exploring such a unique spot – we recommend heading up to the old Sarajevo bobsled track for sure.

Don’t believe everything you’re told – listen, investigate and then make up your own mind, otherwise you might miss out on a real adventure!

If you find yourself in Sarajevo and are looking for a taxi, we highly recommend our driver, Eno.  He was friendly, insightful, used the meter the whole day, gladly waited for us at each stop with no pressure (or charge!) and turned up the next morning as promised to take us to the bus station (which is out of town, be sure to plan that into your timeframe and budget).  You can get hold of him on +387 611 41 611.

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