Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the heart of Europe’s Balkan region, has a chequered history and a wealth of highlights to discover. But one of the most unusual places to see in Sarajevo is hidden high up in the mountains behind the city. Left over from the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, the Sarajevo bobsleigh run has turned, over time, into an eerie reminder of the days before the Balkan war and the city’s 3-year siege, when these mountains hid snipers picking off the citizens in the city far below. Now graffitied and swallowed up by the surrounding forest, why not take a trip to discover the abandoned Sarajevo bobsled track for yourself?
Located in a bowl surrounded by mountains, Bosnia’s capital has nature right on its doorstep. In the heart of a Yugoslavia just beginning to open up after the death of Marshall Tito in the early 1980s, it was an unusual but welcome choice to host an Olympic Games most memorable for ice dancing and Britain’s Torvill and Dean’s classic Bolero. A cable car carried athletes and spectators alike from the heart of the city to the top of the mountain; but when war broke out less than 10 years later, the cable car fell into disrepair and the old bobsled site became difficult to reach without taking a car up the winding hillside roads.
As of 2018, however, the cable car has reopened and the city’s easy access to the mountains is back with a vengeance. The cable car station is just a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town, close to the historic Sarajevsko brewery to the south of the River Miljacka. Riding the cable car is not cheap; at 20KM (€10) for foreigners for a return ticket, it is closer to western European prices than those of Bosnia, but the trip is well worth it. Safe, shiny modern cars make the journey to the top of the mountain in 7 minutes, during which time the panoramic windows give an outstanding view over the city. Each small car seats 6 passengers comfortably; no risk of being squashed in the centre without a view. As of 2018 the cable car is not busy, and visiting on a September afternoon I had the carriage to myself.
The top of the mountain offers two magnificent viewpoints over the city, and access to a network of walking and cycling tracks. For those looking for fresh air away from the city, there are plenty of places to roam, but for the visitor the main draw has to be the bobsled track.
Following the tarmac road downhill from the viewpoint closest to the cable car station (the start of the path can be hard to spot; aim to head down to a point immediately below the viewpoint and you will find it), a five minute walk downhill will bring you to the bobsled track on your left-hand side. It is totally abandoned, surrounded by forest on all sides, and visitors are free to climb and roam to their heart’s content. The concrete track is heavily (but tastefully) graffitied, which somehow adds to its charm. Varying in width down to about 50cm at its narrowest, the track can be walked easily and safely along its full length. Not especially steep, it is however worth remembering that whoever walks down must walk back up again – so don’t be tempted to go further down the hillside than your fitness allows! Bear in mind also that there are no refreshments available at the cable car station at the top of the mountain; when I was there, locals were selling bottled drinks by the roadside, but out of season make sure you have water with you.
Sarajevo’s cable car costs 20KM return (15KM one way) for foreigners, 6KM return for Bosnian citizens. Children under 7 and pets travel free; bicycles cost an additional 4KM.
There is no charge to access the bobsled track.