I spent 10 hours on an old slow train from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, to Sarajevo, the divided capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The train left at 8 am and I spent the entire day cooped up on stained seats in a musty old train compartment with little ventilation. Needless to say, when I arrived Sarajevo I was relieved the journey was over. I was tired of feigning interest in the various topics the only other traveler in my compartment, a peculiar and awkward Swiss dude, was attempting to talk about. I arrived at the Hostel Franz Ferdinand (named after Archduke Francis Ferdinand) via a tram that was probably from the 1950s. That was when I heard about the most surreal place to visit in the Balkans, the abandoned bobsled track in the mountains nearby.
The abandoned bobsled track was in the fact built for the 1984 Winter Olympics, which was held in Sarajevo. It probably had some use after that time, but a few short years later Yugoslavia began to fall apart and there was war. As a result, the bobsled track was left to fend for itself in nature. It sounded like a cool day trip.
I found the bobsled track on a hill on the outskirts of the city near an abandoned Serbian military post. During the war, the Serbian military built a ton of these posts in the mountains all around Sarajevo. They were primarily to shell the city with artillery fire.
Walking from top to bottom the track was covered in graffiti. The foliage around it had crept very close at some points giving a kind of surreal vibe. It interesting the way people and nature had touched everything over the years. Also, the view of the city from up there was second to none.
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There were a few strange things I noticed as we walked. One of them was a totally burnt out car just left on the side of a nearby road.
About two-thirds of the way down I encountered a guy in a hoodie spray painting the track first hand. It turned out this guy was an artist from Ljubljana, Slovenia. He had been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture in Slovenia to create his personal art project, which involved creating art pieces in many capital cities around Europe.
His project was going to be shown in a gallery the next month in Ljubljana. He had the clever idea to paint part of his street art on top of a slim piece of canvas. This was so that instead of normally taking a photo of his artwork when done, he would also get to keep a physical piece of it with him to include in the exhibition. Moments like these have underscored the serendipitous nature of travel for me.
I strongly believe any trip to Europe should include a stop out to the east. Check out Sarajevo and it’s abandoned bobsled track, one of the most interesting places to visit in the Balkans.