The Tunnel That Saved Sarajevo

During the Yugoslav Wars, the city of Sarajevo was under siege by Serbian forces for an unprecedented 43 months. Under the constant threat of shelling and sniper fire, the people of the city managed to cling to life. Completely cut off from the outside world, it was feared that the city would run out of supplies. But on 30 June 1993, the Bosnian Army constructed a 800m long tunnel that connected the city with the free Bosnian territory just beyond the UN-controlled airport. This tunnel would become known as the Tunnel of Hope and provide the lifeline that the city needed. Everything from guns to goats were brought into the city via the tunnel. And there’s no doubt that without the tunnel, the city couldn’t have held out for as long as it did.

Sarajevo was surrounded during the war. The airport was impassable as well.

Sarajevo was surrounded during the war. The UN-controlled airport was impassable as well.

One end of the tunnel terminated in the house of the Kolar family, who bravely hosted the secret passage despite the obvious danger. Today, the family runs the Tunnel Museum in that very same home (I think they’ve moved across the street). There’s an 18 minute video with footage taken during the war, a small exhibition with artifacts such as shell casings and uniforms, photos, news clippings, and a preserved 25m section of the tunnel which you can walk through.

The Tunnel of Hope: 1.6m high, 1m wide, 800m long.

The Tunnel of Hope: 1.6m high, 1m wide, 800m long.

It’s no surprise that many visitors are brought to tears at some point in the museum. When you learn of the extreme hardships that the people of Sarajevo went through human empathy kicks in and the urge to tear follows. I’m not going to lie, my eyes got quite watery by the time I left the museum.

An AP news clipping proudly displayed in the museum.

An AP news clipping proudly displayed in the museum.

Artillery shells from the war on display in the museum.

Artillery shells from the war on display in the museum.

An hour is about all the time you’ll need to thoroughly go over each part of the museum. Getting there, however, is another story. If you want to save some money and forgo a tour (€15), it’s possible to reach the museum by tram and a long walk. I went the tram route, but I wish I had hired a bicycle instead. The museum is located about 11km from the old town, which is no problem on a bike.

To reach the museum by public transport, take tram #3 to Ilidža, which is the last stop. The tram ride will take around 30 minutes. When you step off the tram, walk back to the roundabout where the tram just came from, and turn right. You could also take a bus (#32) for about 1.5km, but considering that you’d have to pay for the short bus ride and still then walk for over 1.5km, I don’t think it’s worth it. However if you do take the bus, get off at Butmir and follow the map below. Point C is the museum.

Admission to the museum is KM 10 adults / 5 students. A return ticket on the tram is KM 3.2 at a kiosk / 3.6 on board. Compared to a tour which costs KM 30 (€15), you’ll save over 50% by going on your own!

Don’t lie! Did you get teary eyed when you visited the Tunnel Museum?

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