‘The furiousness of the fighting was evident in some of the buildings, many with hundreds, if not thousands, of bullet marks.’
Debbie and I had decided to take a holiday driving down the coast of the Adriatic, hoping between the many small islands off Croatia. It was a great holiday, we stayed in houses with rooms to let and sharing many meals and experiences with the locals. Because of the war there were nearly no tourists. The local economy relied heavily on tourists, it was just another example of how war devastates economies.
We got to a spot just outside of Dubrovnik where we met someone who said the border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina had opened up two days before. Debbie and I had a short discussion and decided to head to Sarajevo. The war had dominated the headlines and were keen to what was happening for ourselves.
Once into the country we realised that we must have been the only tourists there. What first became apparent was the level of ethnic cleansing that had occurred. As we drove along the road every farmhouse had been destroyed, it was like that for something like 100 kilometres.
I couldn’t help wondering where all these people had gone. There was little chance of them coming back as many of the roads into the farmhouses had been mined.
At another level it was rather surrealistic. It was summer, very warm and we could see people enjoying themselves swimming in the rivers. The countryside was beautiful, it made it all that harder to imagine the carnage that had occurred, yet looking through the windscreen of the car destruction was apparent everywhere.
The furiousness of the fighting was evident in some of the buildings, many with hundreds, if not thousands, of bullet marks.
The UN was travelling in conveys of dozens of cars and trucks. All major points were heavily guarded, often with machine guns, but also tanks. The photo below shows a hastily constructed bridge to replace the one destroyed in the war and guarded by a tank.
Before arriving in Sarajevo there is small set of mountains that we passed through. It was a winding road with hundred meter drops off the side. As we were going around blind corners cars coming in the opposite direction would overtake on our side of the road, with speeds of 120 kilometres per hour. It was really frightening. What we learnt later was that only a couple of months earlier there had been snipers on the side of the road shooting at passing cars. Therefore, the habit was still in place to drive as fast as possible through this stretch of road.
When we arrived in Sarajevo we realised how destructive a modern war can be. Sarajevo was a modern city. Many skyscrapers had been reduced to rubble.
I tried to imagine Sydney, with no water flowing or the sewerage system not working. It was hard, but what hit me was the massive destruction modern weapons can do in a very short period of time.