Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled course

Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled Run, 30 Years Later

The 22nd Winter Olympic Games officially get underway today, just one day shy of the 30th anniversary of the opening of the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. Above, a shot of what the bobsled run looks like today, part of the Bosnian capital’s Olympic legacy.

Constructed in 15 months at a cost of 563,209,000 Yugoslav Dinars (US$4.5 million), the bobsled and luge facility on Trebević Mountain, which overlooks the city from the south, was a major point of pride for Yugoslavia’s Winter Olympic organizers. The venue hosted 30,000 spectators for the bobsled competition, and 20,000 for the luge.

Eight years and two months after the Closing Ceremonies it served as a Bosnian Serb artillery position during the siege of Sarajevo which ultimately killed more than 10,000 people. These days the facility’s visitors include young lovers, tourists, an occasional shepherd and plenty of graffiti artists.

Here’s a 17-photo slideshow with shots taken when I visited in June 2011; I posted briefly back then with a link to a video of a four-minute high-speed walk down the run, but haven’t yet posted these photos.

With chirping birds as my guides along the battered and bruised concrete monument, it was a peaceful stroll through a landscape well on its way to becoming a reclaimed forest. It was surreal, too; I felt as if I was walking through a set of a post-Apocalyptic film.

And below, a four-minute video, the Trebević Mountain Polka. Enjoy the stroll.

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Dom Policije Vranjače, near Sarajevo

Poppies and Shrapnel (Pic de Jour)

Dom Policije Vranjače, near Sarajevo

This is was taken at what is left of Dom Policije Vranjače, a former Club/vacation home for police officers, in the hills south of Sarajevo. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my visit to the Bosnian capital last year. I’m also a sucker for poppies.

This spot was one stop on a day-long Sarajevo Siege Tour which I’d highly recommend to anyone who visits and has the time to spare. A two-and-a-half minute video I shot of that tour is below. And if you happen to have another 150 seconds to spare and can only follow one of the links included on this page, please check out my Sarajevo time lapses video. And remember, sharing is nice. Thanks. :)

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Previously from Sarajevo:

- Sarajevo Siege + 20
- Beggars
- Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)
- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

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Sarajevo Siege + 20: Fifteen photos

Time flies. Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the siege on Sarajevo. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my visit there last year.

Even then it was difficult to imagine that nearly two decades had passed since the longest siege in modern times had ended. Plenty of buildings were still sitting as shells of ruins or in disrepair. Everywhere you turned bullet holes still marked buildings like violent graffiti tags. After a few hours of walking around and snapping pictures, I asked myself that time-tested question: How many photos of aging shelling and sniper fire damage does one man really need?

Quite a few as it turned out: in keeping with this month’s A-Z blogging challenge, here are fifteen, which will take care of today’s entry which was assigned the letter F. Or, you can go with a less safe-for-work theme: F for fucked up. Either will work and both interpretations are fine with me.

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Despite the battle scars, there were plenty of signs of moving forward. Cosmetic ones mainly, the kind that arrive on the artificial coattails created by foreign capital-financed construction projects and pedestrian malls lined with boutiques where most of the locals can’t afford to shop. Just as striking were the remnants of a past not too distant, the Yugoslav days and daze where Sarajevo was the country’s cultural and creative capital that hosted the world for nearly two weeks in early 1984. The city’s main train station, where an old rusting sign built for those Winter Olympic Games still greets visitors near the taxi stand, hasn’t changed much in three decades.

Inside one of the station’s logistics offices, a portrait of Tito still hung on the wall. Inside a station cafe, four men, all retirees, sat chatting over their 9:30 am cocktails and grumbled about the lack of vacation options to fit their budgets.”Screw it,” one said, before losing his train of thought. The others burst out in laughter, cajoled him for his apparent senility, and ordered another round.

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11,541 red chairs, one for every person killed during the 44-month siege, were arranged in 825 rows today to commemorate the beginning of the siege. Check out my twitter feed at right or online (@pirancafe) for links to photos published and tweeted throughout the day.

Memorial for the children killed during the siege of Sarajevo

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__________________
Indeed.
F is for Fifteen
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

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Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1: Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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Previously from Sarajevo (Jun/Jul 2011):

- Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)
- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

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Beggars

It was just as I decided against buying some pens made from large bullet shell casings that I felt a slight tug on my shirt. It came from a gaunt woman with very long straight jet black hair and rotting front teeth. She was holding a young girl by the hand whose complexion was just a shade lighter than her own pale kidney bean brown. I pretended not to understand her first plea, and then ignored the next four.

“Please, please,” she said, “we want to have some of your money.”

Her limited command of English was too direct. Which was likely why she tried Croat, Albanian, Macedonian, Italian and German first.

“I have young daughter. She very sick and we very, very hungry.”

The girl was clean, nicely dressed, appeared healthy and aloof. She was also very quiet.

I politely told her no and continued walking. She followed for a few more steps before turning her attention to a couple who were strolling the opposite way.

I saw them again about 20 minutes later, just as I was waiting for the grounds to settle in what would be my last Turkish coffee of the day. The girl wasn’t quiet this time. Her pestering ruined the calming call to prayer that was pleasantly wailing from one of the nearby minarets.

“I want to go home,” she said in Croat, gently tugging at the women’s loose fitting blouse. The woman tugged back hard and smacked the girl on the back with a plastic bag full of fruit.

“Silence!” she yelled, her raging eyes bulging, commanding respect. “Your mother said she didn’t want you home until 10!”

The girl was quiet again when the woman stopped another couple. It was getting late. This time she muttered in English first.

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This was in Sarajevo’s Baščaršija, or Turkish Quarter, last summer. You can check out some more Sarajevo-related posts here, or browse through some photos on my flickr stream here. Oh, and I really think you should invest 150 seconds of your day and check out this 17-scene timelapse I shot. Thanks!

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__________________
If you haven’t guessed,
B is for Beggars
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

*** *** ***

Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, musings on my obsessions of the day, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)

Here’s a quick stroll through the 25 meters or so that remains of the what locals dubbed Sarajevo’s Tunnel of Hope.

During the beginning of Sarajevo’s three-year siege, the city was entirely cut off by Serbian forces. Locals came up with the tunnel idea, dug beneath Sarajevo’s airport, linking the city’s Dobrinja neighborhood with the Bosnian-controlled Butmir neighborhood to the south. The tunnel, built over a period of just under seven months, was completed in late July 1993, allowing much-needed humanitarian aid to come into the city and helped people get out. It also provided beleaguered residents a way to bypass the international arms embargo. Eventually a pipe line was laid for delivery of oil.

In all, 2800 cubic meters of ground was excavated for the 800 meter long tunnel, according to the Tunnel Museum website. As you can see in the video, the average height was about 1.5 meters and averaged one meter in width. According to some estimates, as much as 20 million tons of food entered the city through the tunnel, and one million passed in and out including then Bosnia president Alija Izetbegovic. When the siege was over, the tunnel was filled to avoid damage to the runway above.

The museum website is here; an absolute must visit. I’d suggest you combine it with other interests and let Sarajevo Funky Tours be your guide. You won’t be disappointed.

A few more shots:

Tunnel Museum

Entrance of the Tunnel Museum

Across the stret from the museum, formerly a police station

Sarajevo Airport from the museum

And finally, the entrance to a second tunnel that was built later but never used when the siege was drawing to an end.

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Previously from my June 2011 visit to Sarajevo:

- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts

Here’s a quick clip of the basement level storage room at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, shot through a gate. Like a rat, I’m naturally drawn and attracted to these sorts of spaces. Anyone recognize who the broken sculpture is supposed to represent? Looks vaguely familiar. Or not.

A few more shots:

And here’s the Academy from the front, formerly an Evangelical Church:

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Previously from Sarajevo:

- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses (includes an image of the Academy building)
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

Sarajevo pics, Part deux

As usual, summer’s flying by. On the road too much, with way too much piling up at home. I finally got around to some more pics from last month’s trip to Sarajevo; another few dozen posted on my flickr stream here. Not a day’s gone by since that I haven’t thought about that amazing city. That’s the Avaz Twist Tower in the background, the second tallest building in the former Yugoslavia, construction completed in 2009.

Oh, and if you haven’t checked out my Sarajevo timelapse, please do when you’ve got to 148 seconds to spare. :)

Sarajevo 085, originally uploaded by pirano.

Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II).

Catching up on last month’s visit to Sarajevo, here’s a four-minute high speed stroll down the 1984 Olympic bobsled run on Trebević Mountain. Apologies for the bumpiness, but I imagine that an actual ride on a bobsled would be a bit bouncy too. Particularly these days when a machete would come in handy.

Constructed in 15 months at a cost of 563,209,000 Yugoslav Dinars (US$4.5 million*), the facility was a point of pride for 1984 Winter Olympic organizers. Eight years and two months after the Closing Ceremonies, the facility was one of the front lines in the Serb Siege of Sarajevo.

The stroll was quite peaceful, with a pleasant accompaniment by chirping birds and forest insects. It was also a bit surreal, like walking through the set of of post-apocalyptic film. The next Planet of the Apes sequel, perhaps.

More pics from Sarajevo’s Olympic legacy are on my flickr stream here.
More general shots of Sarajevo are here.

* According to the official report to the IOC, local organizers listed the cost of the bobsled and luge facility as 563,209,000 Yugoslav dinars. The official exchange rate at the time was 125.67 YUD to 1 USD. If anyone has a better figure on the actual cost, both in 1984 and 2011 USD, please share. :)

Sarajevo Notebook I – Time Lapses

I’ve wanted to visit Sarajevo since I was about six, when I first read in our home encyclopedia about how World War I started in this Yugoslav city, one that would host the Winter Olympic Games 70 years later. Last week I finally walked across the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and went for a leisurely stroll down the Olympic bobsled run, now a concrete monument splattered in graffiti and slowly being blanketed by undergrowth from its forest setting. (A video of that stroll is here.)

I’ve got a few related personal projects in the works which I hope to finish by the end of the month, but wanted to knock this one off first mainly to free up some space on my laptop’s hard drive: a series of time lapses, shot from 28-30 June, comprised of 3606 photos and condensed into just under two-and-a-half minutes.

The Scenes:
1. Shelled building along the Miljacka River near the Skenderija Bridge
2. View to the northwest, Koševo district and Olympic Stadium complex
3. Destroyed senior center, Alipašino Polje (eastern Sarajevo)
4. Ali-Pasha Mosque
5. Beggar on Mula Mustafe Baseskije Street, a lively pedestrian thoroughfare
6. Intersection of Marshall Tito Avenue and Vladimir Peric Valter Street in central Srajevo
7. Apartment building in the New Sarajevo district
8. Destroyed observatories in the mountains to the south – at right the Orion Observatory built during the Yugoslav period, and the older dating to the Austro-Hungarian Empire
9. Katedrala Srca Isusova (Jesus’ Heart Cathedral)
10. Former Yugoslav (JLA) army barracks, now part of the University of Sarajevo campus
11. View to the east from Dom Policije Vranjače, a former Club/vacation home for police officers
12. Front of the Railway Station
13. Near the Holiday Inn, the only functioning hotel during the Siege of Sarajevo. This is near the beginning of what was known as Sniper Alley.
14. Fine Arts Academy, formerly the Evangelical Church
15. Apartment building in the New Sarajevo district
16. In the Baščaršija, or Turkish Quarter
17. View west from the Žuta Tabija, or Yellow Bastion (early 18th C.)

MANY thanks to Skender from Sarajevo Funky Tours. If you plan to visit, check out his company, Sarajevo Funky Tours.

Music:
City Night Line
by Cobra (avec logo panthère)

CC/Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

I’ve also uploaded some photos to my flickr stream here. More to come but not this week since I gotta hit the road again on Monday afternoon.

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