In 2015 myself and a mate of mine travelled to Slovenia to watch England play Slovenia in an international football match (well he did, I was there for the travel mainly), to make things more interesting we flew to Split in Croatia, and from there made our way into Bosnia, before heading from there to Zagreb and across to Ljubljana. Part of the trip was one place I was really looking forward to visiting, Sarajevo. A city that has seen so much bloodshed, destruction, and unbelievable attrocity as recently as 1996, when the seige finally ended.
Sarajevo is a great city, steeped in history and a real mix of cultures, making for a great visit. While we were there we learned that the sites of the 1984 Winter Olympics were still in place and had been left abandoned on Trebević mountain overlooking the city, this for me was something that really flicked my switch and simply had to go and see before we left, so the next day we set off to try and get there.
Numerous taxi’s point blank refused to take us there, we didn’t know why… eventually we found one guy who agreed and we set off, half way up into the mountains he stopped and removed the ‘taxi’ sign off the roof, saying “no taxis here” or words to that effect, he eventually dropped us off in a small empty car park, overlooked by what appeard to be a completely burnt out hotel complex, we paid him, and before he made his rather swift exit, he pointed us toward a small road heading into the forest.
The weather was great, we were high up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, and there wasn’t another soul around, as we walked down the track signs started to appear on trees, we couldn’t read any of them, they appeared to be warnings and we just presumed they were to do with forest fires… shortly afterwards we saw the Olympic rings painted onto the road and looking up we could see the first curve of the abandoned bobsleigh track above us.
Climbing up onto it wasn’t hard and were soon exploring away, we walked to the very top where the old viewing stands were still in place, albeit covered in moss and trees, from there we made our way down the 30 year old concrete track, along the way there were strange ‘holes’ in the high walls of the track, obviously man made but for what purpose we didn’t know, (we would find out a day later)
At this point I must stress that we really had not researched this outing and it was a pretty much spur of the moment decision to do the night before, looking back it was incredibly stupid given what had happened here.. as we neared the bottom of the track we realised that we were still really high into the mountains, the city just a distant feature a good way away, we somehow thought the track would just lead us right back to the city… at the bottom of the track there was the finish line bridge with all the old lettering on it, we took turns at climbing up onto it, again amazed that there was nobody around… amazed that was until we walked just a little further on to the physical end to the track, where we found a concrete pill box and absolutely loads of yellow tape everywhere with the wording ‘POZOR / MINES’, yes, we were in the middle of an uncleared minefield, the Serbs had landmined the area before they left .
As you can imagine this revelation put a different stint on the visit, we were still miles out of the City and no concrete track to take us to our destination, instead there was just an old vehicle track heading downwards with bombed out houses either side, all riddled with bullet holes.. as far as I could see it there were 2 options, walk back up the track and somehow try to call another taxi (if there was signal and we could somehow find a number) or we just cracked on and walked down the vehicle track, walking in where vehicles had been and not in the grassy central area. We chose the latter option as there was certainly no guarantee anyone would come for us given the reluctance of most drivers to actually take us up there in the first place.
As we made our way down I was taking pictures of the buildings in a real war torn state, there were some great images to be had but there was no way we could even consider leaving the track we were on so everything had to be shot from a distance, my mate seemed quite amazed I wanted to still take photographs, my reasoning being that if we got blown up it wouldn’t matter anyway, and if we got out ok then I would have the images.
To cut a long story a little shorter after an hour or more we eventually came into a better stretch of road and shortly afterwards some inhabited houses which was a great relief, a guy washing his carpets in the street spoke to us and after realising we were English was really friendly and offered us a drink, we thanked him but we just wanted to get out of there and pressed onwards to the city.
Eating our lunch of Kofta kebabs in the city a while later was a great moment and a time to reflect on something that could easily have gone a different way, I think we both learned a lot that day. We later found out that the holes in the walls of the track were made by snipers, used to pick off unsuspecting members of the public, trapped by the seige, just horrific.
Travelling light, all images from this trip were shot handheld on the mirrorless Fuji X100S with wide angle adaptor, and LEE 100 x 150 mm filters.
The images follow the story in order.