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Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone. Part 1 of 7.

Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone T=shirt.
T-Shirt sponsored by The One World Trust, a Charity established by British Parliamentarians to promote Global Governance.

Twenty-nine years ago I was about to experience the most dangerous part of my walk from San Francisco to Sarajevo to plant a tree for Peace on April 22nd, Earth Day 1995.

Sarajevo had been bombarded and under siege for three years and I was about to enter the city of Mostar and begin my walk along the front lines of the battle.

This is what I wrote in my journal 25 years ago...

From Medjugoria my route took me over the mountains. At the top of the road, I came across the first United Nations checkpoint. A white armored car guarded the checkpoint with UNPROFOR emblazoned on it in big black letters. At the same time, a UN peacekeeper in a blue helmet inspected my 'Blue Card' (UN High Commission For Refugees document). Amazed that I was there he eventually let me through with a warning to be careful where I walked. Mines were everywhere.

Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone. At UN in Geneva.
Walking to Sarajevo: A visit welcome from the UN in Geneva.

I hiked down the mountain towards the city of Mostar. The sun peeked through the clouds and lit the river in the valley far below. It was beautiful. I could not hear gunfire and the valley appeared peaceful, though I knew that I journeyed ever closer to the hostilities.

The mountain communities I passed were destroyed, deserted and eerie in their silence, and the same vistas that raise my spirits now cause me anxiety over snipers. On the other side of the valley were the front lines.

Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone situation Map
A Situation Map of the Front Lines I had to navigate through on the last section of my Walk To Sarajevo

The Bosnians are defending the valley from the Serbs attacking from the East. The valley was very green and the earth looked rich. I came to a steep bend, looked down through the trees, and at the foot of the mountains, was Mostar.

Apartment buildings reflected the sun and children played in the streets. Their merriment reached me. I never expected to find so much joy in such a terrible situation.

I continued down the long, winding road until I found myself in a peaceful suburb. It was quiet. I was happy. Zero traffic with streets echoing only the shoes of pedestrians and the sounds of children laughing and playing. The undamaged buildings told me that I was in West Mostar, the Croatian Christian side of the city. I headed towards the city center and asked some policemen to guide me to a hotel (even in war life goes on).

I was in luck. Twenty meters away was the only hotel in town, an extremely discreet place run by the United Nations. I walked in and was surprised.

It was elegant and in a formal dining room, UN officials dressed in stark white uniforms dined over what looked like a fabulous meal. Seeing this elegance after what I have seen the last few days was so surrealistic. The receptionist explained that there was a room available for only twenty-three dollars. Then she apologized and told me that the hotel only catered to United Nations Officials with prior reservations. I wore jeans, carried a backpack, and had no reservations. Fortunately, I did have a UNHCR Blue Card which I waved around until she condescended to call the Administrator, a polite and friendly British Officer. He waved the formalities and gave me a room.

Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone. UN Peacekeeper, Mostar
UN Peacekeeper, Mostar

The room was on the fourth floor and very nice and comfortable. Luxury, a miracle, yahoo! I felt safe for the first time in a week. I settled in, opened the window shutters stepped onto the balcony, and was immediately plunged into the horror and reality of war. Apartment buildings lay in ruin. Houses, shops, and schools were obliterated. Entire streets and neighborhoods were devastated, deadly shells of what they once were. No movie could capture my shock at what I saw. Stunned beyond words I realised that I was looking at East Mostar. Bosnia. This is where the Muslims live. And that's where I was about to go. The thought of this was, to say the least, chilling.

Sarajevo: Walking through a War Zone. Part 1 of 7.

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