The lady at the counter of the airport told me that I could easily reach the Tunnel of Life museum by walking around the runway, so I set off walking with all my luggage; for security reasons, there are no left luggage facilities at the airport. The first part was not particularly nice as I had to walk the main road. I saw several apartment blocks on my left that still had bullet holes in their walls - the siege of Sarajevo is still visible in many places. There were no signs, and when the main road veered away from the runway, I was suspicious, and took a smaller road which led directly to the entrance of the EUFOR gates. There was no way I could enter; I had to backtrack and then take another road parallel to the runway. By this time, I cursed the lady of the information desk not having been clearer about this, and I just hoped I would make it before closure time.
It was easy to spot the museum: there is a Bosnian flag outside, and this house, too, still bears the scars of war in the form of bullet holes. The guys inside were friendly enough and took my bag, so I could walk around the museum freely. At one of the information boards, I listened to a local guy who was giving his vision on the siege of Sarajevo, the history of Bosnia, its place within Europe, and more issues. While listening, I looked at the boards, which explained how the city was totally surrounded by enemy forces that kept it under control for more than 3 years. The airport was a designated UN area, and this fact was exploited by the Bosnian army. I went to the video room in the basement, where I learnt that the project had been a highly secretive operation. Even the soldiers initially did not know what they were building. It was important that the enemy did not know what was going on, so they could not destroy the tunnel.
Construction started on March 1, 1993 and was completed within 3 months, with soldiers working around the clock from both the Butmir and Dobrinja side. The soldiers worked with primitive equipment, and were only paid with one pack of cigarettes a day. The narrow tunnel had rails, on which a wagon could go back and forth, ferrying good ad weapons from Bosnian territory to the besieged city of Sarajevo. Moreover, a large amount of people fled the city using the tunnel. When asked what was the most precious thing taken through the tunnel, one of the local guides told me: Hope. Knowing that there was a line with the outside world, that there was a tunnel that could supply the city with goods, reinforced the belief of the citizens of Sarajevo that they could survive the war. Of course, I descend into the tunnel, and walk to the end of the accessible part of it; apparently, there are plans to re-open the tunnel all the way to the other side. I visit the small museum upstairs, see the first designs for the tunnel, the famous visitors the place has seen. I also see pictures of the Kolar family, who still own the house: their house had been chosen, and served as the cover-up of building the life-saving tunnel that, therefore, was dubbed the Tunnel of Life.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tunnel of Life. Read more about this site.