Trace the Grim Past in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

“Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children!”

Sarajevo is a charming and relaxed city, where you drink Bosnian coffee among green mountains. But it is also a city, where 2 of history’s worst wars cannot be ignored. One event (only) involved the murder of 2 people, but changed the world. The other involved several hundred thousands deaths, but fewer people know about this.

World War I and the Bosnian War!

sarajevo graves

The white tombstones are visible from almost everywhere


World War I started in Sarajevo on June 28 1914.

This first words in this post was uttered by the Archduke to his wife the Archduchess Sophie just before he died. But they both died in their car. It makes me so sad.

The automobile arrived and I heard the blast of a bomb. I knew that that was one of ours, but I didn’t know which one. The mob started to run, and I ran a little too and the automobile stopped. I thought that it was over and I saw that they had Cabrinovic. I thought that I would kill him so that no one would know anything further, and then kill myself, too. I abandoned that idea, because I saw that the automobiles passed by. Up to then I had not seen the Archduke. I went to the Latin Bridge and then I heard that the assassination had not succeeded. Then I took thought as to where to stand, because I knew where he would pass from having read it in the Bosanska Posta (Bosnian Post) and the Tagblatt.

The above is the statement from the shooter Gavrilo Princip. On the corner of the Latin Bridge and Zeleni Beretki 1, the Serbian nationalist . Princip shot the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. He was the 4. assassin on that day and not the first one trying.


The Latin Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Sarajevo from 1540 and reminds me of Mostar. Princip stood here right before he shot the Archduke and his wife. For a while, the bridge was named after Gavrilo Princip, since the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later on the Socialist Republic considered him a hero. Not anymore.

sarajevo bridge

Gavrilo Princip was only 18, but wanted political change and independence for his country, which you can’t really blame him. But violence didn’t help, it only created more violence. WWI changed Europe for ever and several empires fell, including the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian – both of which had ruled Sarajevo.


On the corner of the shooting, you can see pictures of the funeral and more in the windows of the Sarajevo Museum 1878-1918. You can also have your picture taken in a similar car dressed as the Archduke. Not sure what’s the fun in that. Would anyone dress up like JFK on the road in Dallas?


The Bosnian War is even more horrible. But somehow it’s easier to feel sad for a married couple worrying about the kids than thousands of people. It’s too much to handle.

I talked to 3 locals affected by the war: 2 fled to Germany, one was only a kid, the third one had most of his relatives in Sweden, where they escaped to, and he was considering going to USA, since BiH still has trouble getting back on its feet after the war.

sarajevo bullet holes

About 100.000-200.000 people were killed in the Bosnian War – mostly civilians – and more than 2 mio. people displaced. In the UN-protected camp in Srebenica 8.000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were caught by the Serbian army and killed in the course of 3 days.


Unfortunately, Sarajevo is the place of the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare – 1.425 days. You’ll find bullet holes in the buildings everywhere. BiH wanted independence, not from the Austro-Hungarian empire this time (it fell in WW1), but from Yugoslavia, but declaration of independence the Bosnian Serbs retaliated. During the siege, the old cultural sights were deliberately targeted and much were destroyed or damaged. Over 300 shell-bombs hit every day.


The city hall that had 90% of its library burned


In the small Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995 you can learn more about this horrible siege. ! The museum is only a few years old.  It’s not a big museum, but so horrible, that I couldn’t look at it all. There were several images from mass graves and you should definitely consider it before bringing children or people like me. The whole thing begins with a huge photograph of a hand dug up from a mass grave with a watch on. I will not forget this image soon (didn’t take a picture of it on purpose).

sarajevo museum genocide


And if you hadn’t had enough, go to the nice green Veliki Park. Here you find the Memorial for Children killed during the siege. Some kids were not even a year old! The rolls made me think of prayer rolls, which seems only suitable in a city, where religion plays such a big role. You’ll find Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews as well as Muslims.

sarajevo memorial


I only took a short peak into the Gallery 11/07/95, but was exhausted by then. The gallery was a nominee for the European Museum Award in 2017 and was probably more a place for me than the museum. Although the temporary exhibition was photographs from Srebenica, so maybe not.

You can also add the Tunnel Museum to the list. It comes highly recommended. Through the tunnel the citizens of Sarajevo had medicine, food and ammunition. It was 800 meters and you can visit 25 meters of it. But I had enough by this time. It’s a little off road, so either join a guided day tour or get a taxi.


The eternal flame for the victims of WWII

If you are still reading this, I’m impressed. I will not get into WWII and “Walter”. Instead I will recommend you get a delicious ice cream or a cheap beer after visiting this part of history.

Today Sarajevo is a really nice and charming city with very friendly locals and definitely worth a visit. I’ll try to also write about all the nice places in another post.

Are you interested in the Balkans try Venetian fortresses & World Heritage in Kotor, Montenegro!


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