July 11, 2024

A Guide to the Sarajevo War Tunnel and Museum

The siege of Sarajevo was a crucial moment during the Bosnian War. The city was under siege for 1,425 days – a year longer than the siege of Leningrad, where 800,000 civilians perished. It began in April 1992 and ended in February 1996. Many civilians died during the siege of Sarajevo and four Serb commanders were later convicted of war crimes.

How the Tunnel was Constructed

The Sarajevo Tunnel was constructed between March and June 1993, as a way to let vital humanitarian air and war supplies into the besieged city. Those defending the city could receive arms without falling foul of the international arms embargo. And, people who wanted to leave had a safe way to escape the city.

There were no specialist excavation tools and machinery and the men who dug the tunnel did it all by hand. People worked on the runnel 24/7, digging from both ends until they met in the middle. It was a perilous process due to continuous shelling and underground water. The tunnel is less than a km long and on average, 1.6 metres high. It started as a muddy path but in time, a track was laid so carts could trundle through, making it easier to move heavy equipment. Eventually, power and permanent lighting were added. Anyone passing through the tunnel needed to wear a mask, as there was no ventilation. In addition, the tunnel was prone to flooding, which could reach waist height.

Once the war ended, a museum was created adjacent to the nondescript house in Sarajevo where the entrance to the tunnel was hidden.

The Museum

The main attraction for visitors coming to the Sarajevo War Tunnel and Museum is the actual tunnel. You won’t get the opportunity to venture more than a few metres into the tunnel and some imagination is needed to get a feel for what life would have been like during the siege. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting experience.

In the museum, visitors are shown a 20-minute film, which includes actual footage from the siege. It’s a fairly amateur production, but the footage is authentic.

The open-air section of the museum contains lots of artefacts from the siege, including the equipment used by the men digging the tunnel and the small trolleys. There are also photographs and newspaper cuttings, mostly non-English.

There are guided tours available, which are recommended if you want some additional background information to the exhibits. Most visitors find a guided tour really informative and well worth the money.

Getting There

The museum isn’t easy to reach, as it is well outside of the city centre and there is a fair amount of walking needed. A taxi will take you there, but it is usually cheaper to book a place on a guided tour with transport there and back included. Tours typically depart from the Tourist Information Centre in the centre of Sarajevo.

The museum is open every day between 9 AM and 4 PM.

If you are visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina, it is well worth making time to check out the Sarajevo War Tunnel and Museum. It is a useful reminder of a tragic slice of history, which hopefully will not be repeated.

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