A visit to Sarajevo’s Olympic bobsled track was at the top of my to-do list during our visit, and my desire to see it only grew after seeing photos online and reading accounts from other bloggers of how interesting it was to explore in person. Originally constructed for the luge and bobsled events at the 1984 Winter Olympics, the track was a strategic point controlled by Serbian forces during the Siege of Sarajevo. Presently, the track sits quietly abandoned atop Trebević Mountain, it’s only purpose appears to be that of a canvas for graffiti artists.
Unfortunately, as is the case in much of Bosnia and Herzegovina, getting anywhere outside the historic centre can be challenging. As public transport is limited we weren’t able to find any service to the site, or even transport part way that would allow us to hike into the bobsled track. Adding to my frustration, we found a day tour that included the bobsled track, however it was not offered during our visit in the off-season. In the end, the only transportation option we were left with was a taxi ride to the top. Unwilling to give up, we managed to find a map online that included most of the city’s streets and the bobsled site (easiest if you search for Trebević). Armed with an electronic copy of the map on our tablet and with camera in hand, we set out from our hotel on foot, unsure if we’d be successful at reaching the track or not.
Sarajevo is situated in a deep valley, so we assumed the hike would be challenging but it turned out to be more difficult that we ever could have imagined. In addition to the steep terrain, the winding streets were confusing to navigate, street signs are nowhere to be found, and our map didn’t differentiate between main and secondary streets (or even walking paths). We spent more than a few minutes standing at intersections trying to decipher which one to choose. On a couple of these occasions friendly local ladies popped their heads out of a window or over the railing of their balconies to point the way. Although the language gap made it difficult to confirm their directions, we assumed they were used to seeing confused tourists, and in the end our trust in them paid off.
After about an hour and a half of walking we finally spotted a couple of abandoned buildings in a small clearing (one with a Monsieur Chat tag on it), and just minutes later we saw the bobsled track through the trees. High fives ensued. We emerged at the bottom of the bobsled track and after exploring the foundations of a couple destroyed buildings we climbed onto the track and proceeded to walk up it for a few hundred meters.
In addition to being covered with bright graffiti, the bobsled track shows its scars from years of fighting. During the siege, the track was used as cover by the Bosnian Serb Army. Sniper points were drilled into the sides of the track, and the reinforced concrete provided excellent cover. Today it’s incredible to walk along the track picturing the site both during it’s glory in 1984 and its use as a tool of war just nine years later.
Logistics: For those wanting to visit the bobsled track, we highly recommend finding some form of transportation to the top, be it rental car, taxi, or with a guided tour. Although it’s possible to hike to the track, the round trip journey was pretty draining physically, it took us about 4 hours overall, and there is no guarantee you won’t get turned around on the narrow streets that crisscross the hillside. If you do decide to hike, leave early before it gets too hot out and pack lots and lots of water. A picnic for the top isn’t a bad idea either. It’s also good to note that the hill has been cleared of virtually all of its landmines – but it is still good practice to stay to well worn paths and roads and avoid straying too far into the forest.
For a great view, there is an abandoned astronomical observatory tower nearby – you can see it from the bobsled track. Be careful, as it is starting to fall apart and there are no railings. Here is a website with some of the history of the Observatory.