More than 20 years after the war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, tourists who visit Sarajevo are most interested in war history of BH capital. Foreigners want to feel how people lived in Sarajevo during the longest siege in modern history, to see the places where massacres of civilians happened, to visit the sites from where the town and its people were shot at…
The most popular is certainly Sarajevo Tunnel, i.e. Tunnel of Hope, which was dug out during the siege in 1993. Dug hole in the ground, about 800 meters long, with an average height of 1.6 meters and a width of one meter looked like anything else but the tunnel. A breath of freedom was reached through a tunnel to the city that was suffocating and was enough to give people new strength to survive the war years. Due to the military, political, psychological significance and its importance for supplying of the city, it was the best guarded secret – “tunnel that did not exist”.
One of the places that tourists mandatory visits is the exhibition “Sarajevo under the Siege” in the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The exhibition was open to the public in April 2003. Original objects from the period of the siege are placed in the museum and bear witness to the courage, creativity, and resourcefulness of citizens in the most difficult times.
What they want to see is the Markale Market where two massacres against Sarajevo civilians were committed. The first took place on February 5, 1994 when 68 people were killed and 144 wounded. Another massacre was committed on 28th of August 1995 when 37 people were killed, while 90 were wounded.
Zijad Jusufović, president of the Association of Tourist Guides of the Sarajevo Canton, said that foreign tourists come with a desire to learn about the war events without knowing what they can expect on these tours.
– They heard that there was a siege of the city and their requirements are very simple. They are seeking to visit the sites from where the town was shot at, the main wartime headquarters, places where minefields used to be… We take foreign tourists to visit the general headquarters on Trebević, and then Memorial Park Vraca, the place where Radovan Karadžić gave interviews. Tunnel of Hope and Markale Market, war cemeteries, demolished Retirement home, and Sniper Alley. All these places have their own stories which foreign tourists want to hear, and tours most often end up in Baščaršija where they can buy a carved shell grenade or a bullet in the form of pendant – says Jusufović.
According to what he says, the most common question of all visitors is why the war happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how it all began, but also what will happen in the future, and whether radicalization of citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina has happened.
Jusufović emphasized that after the tour and departure from Sarajevo tourists often send messages saying they appreciate their life even more after everything they had seen.
– They say they do not understand how a multiethnic state as Bosnia and Herzegovina is collapsing and they somewhat blame their states because they did not react in time and stopped the bloodshed. War tourism in Sarajevo will continue to live so that strangers can show all the nonsense of war to their children, but also what kind of people exist at all – says Jusufović.
THEY WANT TO FEEL POWER
He says that there are those who enjoy all this, and gives the example of Cambodia where tourists give huge amounts of money to throw a bomb or in Latvia, they put on the uniform of the Russian guard who tortured prisoners.
– There are such requests here as well, but we do not have that kind of offer. I wish we could offer something like that, for example, to shoot from Trebević, not with real bullets of course, or to sit in the tank that used to sow death around town. They want to feel that power, see the original weapons. We could sell a lot more of war tourism, but we have to offer an original experience and content – says Jusufović.
According to what he says, all western tourists are interested in war tourism, while on the other hand, tourists from Arab countries do not want such an offer, and they are interested in mountains, rivers and natural beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.