Outdoor World

‘It belongs to all of Sarajevo’: reopened cable car lifts city out of the past

The siege of Sarajevo turned vacation place Mount Trebevi into a deadly sniper post. Can the reopening of its famous gondola journey ultimately heal old wounds?

P azite, Snajper !– Beware, Sniper!- alerted the signs along the Sarajevo street exposed to marksmen looking through their rifle viewfinders from the top of Mount Trebevic. People would sprint from one side of “sniper’s alley” to the other to deliver supplies to family and friends- demise hot on their heels.

The hillside where tens of thousands are applied to expend their Saturdays before the 1992-1996 siege of Sarajevo soon became” a symbol of aggression”, remembers mountain guide Fikret Kahrovic.” Trebevic was the only place to inhale fresh air when the city was engulfed in fumes, but that all changed and the mountain became our adversary .”

Today- 26 times after the siege began and 73 times since the city’s second world war liberation- Sarajevo hopes to set much of that past to rest with the opening up of the Trebevic gondola.

The 33 cabins will variously sport the Bosnian flag and the colour of the Olympics, a reminder of the mountain’s role in the 1984 Winter Game. It will follow the same route as the previous cable car, travelling from the age-old town to the lungs of Sarajevo, Trebevic, which rises majestically above the city.

Pazite, Snajper ! … a former sniper posture on gradients of Mount Trebevic. Photograph: Elvis Barukcic/ AFP/ Getty Images

The gondola, which operated from near Bascarsija– the Ottoman-influenced part of Sarajevo- to Trebevic, opened in 1959. It was soon ferrying thousands of people up the gradients every day, and the mountain became a central source of pride during the course of its 1984 Winter Olympics, as the host of the Games’s bobsleigh trails.

After Bosnia-Herzegovina’s declaration of independence on 3 March 1992, the sentry on the old Trebevic gondola, Ramo Biber, became the first victim of the war. He was shot dead as the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army continues its campaign to encircle Sarajevo and capture key points. Four a few weeks later, on 5 April, the 1,425 -day siege of the city started- a long time siege of a capital in modern history.

Hundreds of mortars and countless bullets rained down on Sarajevo from this level, killing a large proportion of the 11, 541 people murder in the city during the period. Gunfire was a fixture of everyday life for more than three years.

In August 1995, following mortar strikes that killed dozens of civilians and provoked widespread international censure, Nato finally intervened and began strategic bombing of the cannon encampments on Trebevic. The Bosnian Serbs were forced into withdraw and the Dayton Peace Agreement soon followed, dividing the commonwealth into two largely autonomous entities- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska- along ethnic lines.

Bosnian Serb soldiers pass the Olympic bobsleigh trail on Mount Trebevic in February 1994, at the height of the conflict. Photo: Reuters

The boundary line between the two skirts the mountain and disagreements between Federation and Republic on redevelopment signify Trebevic became a ghost town. The remains of destroyed eateries, inns, sports facilities and mountain shacks were left to rot and the thousands of ours were cleared at a painstakingly slow pace. Bandits wandered the hills, attacking hiking groups and sightseers visiting the bobsleigh tracks with seeming impunity.

” We believed that if we liberated Trebevic we would be free ,” recalls Kahrovic.” But even after the campaign ended returning to the mountain was like a nightmare. Serb artillery positions had been everywhere and there were still minefields until just a few years ago .”

In the past few years, nonetheless, the mountain has slowly returned to something like its former ego. Hotels, restaurants and cafes ought to have rebuilt, ours swept away and hikers from all over Sarajevo visit en masse.

Before the storm … the cable car in its heyday. Photograph: Public Domain

For many, the return of the gondola is the final step in this repair. Despite some frustration that it took so long, with many blaming an endemic culture of corruption, there is a palpable appreciation of optimism all over the reopening.

Sarajevans, Bosnians, Herzegovinians and tourists alike will start the nine-minute, 2km gondola journey in Sarajevo, in the Federation, and arrive on Trebevic’s plateau, a stone’s throw away from Republika Srpska where much of the mountain, including its crest, sits.

” The gondola will be used by everyone, which I think is very important for future generations to grow up with ,” says a young Bosnian woman, who preferred not to be named.” Though we cannot recreate the same feeling of Sarajevo from those hours, we are creating our own remembrances, while still being influenced by the legends of our elders, such as Trebevic, the giant that looms over our city .”

Downhill bikers tackle the bobsleigh trail in 2015. Photo: Dado Ruvic/ Reuters

Another described the gondola as a bittersweet memorial to another life.” It might be simply a gondola, but only for those who have never had a meander that wholly stops your breathing .”

There has been some uncertainty over the cost of excursions on the gondola. Altogether, the construction cost around 20 million marks( PS8. 9m)- one of the country’s largest postwar infrastructure projects- and has been years in the making. A sizeable proportion of the funds came from philanthropic donations.

Eventually, it was decided a return ticket would expense six differentiates. The mayor, Abdulah Skaka, said:” I will not permit the gondola to be only for the elite. It belongs to all citizens of Sarajevo, and Trebevic is our biggest nature park .”

The Trebevic cable car on a test run over the city the coming week. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/ Reuters

Foreigners will pay 20 differentiates, almost three and a half times more. That is still significantly cheaper than similar allures in Europe, tells Skaka.

While shrapnel from exploded mortar shells is still embedded in Sarajevo’s pavements and bullet pits pepper the facade of its houses, the wreckage of the previous gondola has been swept aside and the sense of optimism has been immortalised in a anthem written and performed to celebrate the occasion.

” A new youth is coming ,” sing members of the Sarajevo pop band Ambasadori.” The gates of the city remember our stairs, the age-old lift groans, slowly climbing to the sky under the cloud. Trebevic is coming down into the town again .”

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Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ cities/ 2018/ apr/ 06/ sarajevo-reopened-cable-car-lifts-city-out-of-the-past-bosnia-herzegovina-serb-siege-yugoslavia

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