Back in 1984, the mighty nation of Yugoslavia hosted the winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo. It was the first winter game held in a socialist and Slavic speaking country. It was also the first Olympics held in the Balkan region and by a Muslim-majority city. Some of the venues are abandoned and open for visitors to explore. In Sarajevo we explored the bobsleigh and luge track and the Igman Olympic Hotel.
A bit about Yugoslavia and the Balkans
The Balkan countries are in the southeast of Europe. With the exception of Greece, they are mainly Albania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia nation.
The two shades of grey for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) outline the territorial divide between ethnic groups living in BiH. Now united after the Bosnian war, the capital city of Sarajevo allows adventure seekers to safely explore what remains of the Olympic venues.
Ride up or hike up?
Using the CouchSurfing app to meet other travellers, we got together a group to go see the bobsleigh and luge track. We met in the Old Town and made our way up. It was confusing following the directions as we navigated through the windy streets, but after we reached the grassy plains it was easier to follow. There is the gondola option to take you right up but it passes the Olympic ruins.
After about an hour we caught the first sight of the track. It had been abandoned for so long there's moss growing over it. It made for a good graffiti wall too. We took heaps of photos together and made our way back down. Still not taking the gondola of course!
Room for Two please
Another fun place we visited was the abandoned hotel up the Igman mountains. The place was abandoned after the war and you can still see a lot of the damages. It was not far from the city but quite a climb up by bicycle. It took us about two hours to reach there in a sunny morning. Once we got there it was hard to miss the big concrete jungle (literally, you'll find out soon). We hid our bike behind some bushes, away from the main road just to be safe. No one else was there when we arrived so we had the entire place to ourselves.
Our little bikes parked belowThe place was a wreck. No way would this be opened to the public in New Zealand. Debris and bricks were all over the floor, the only cleared pathway was the stairs. It was quiet but well lit as every floor had big window openings. They removed all the windows so the only broken glass there came from drink bottles. The ground floor had been repurposed to a paintball arena and it looks pretty fun!
Real bullet holes from the warNext we took the stairs up to checkout the views. Every floor had the same layout except the top which had a big space for the restaurant or hall. We eventually got up to the rooftop to see the views the Olympians once had. Some self seeded trees are growing on the roof and getting big! Let's hope the structure is strong enough to hold a forest in a decade's time.
We camped near the hotel. There was plenty of grass space around and it was quiet and peaceful. There were campervans around but they were parked on the other side at the carpark so we had our side all to ourselves. We lit a campfire at night but it got very cold so we slipped into our tent and sleeping bags early and watched some TV shows.
This was one of the side trips we did whilst in BiH. We didn't anticipate the visa process to take so long trapping us to a country for over four weeks. Very soon we'll get the passport back and be on our way to see Croatia and Slovenia.