Big Issue's Rough Guide to Sarajevo

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6


Greetings From Sunny Sarajevo (12.8.02)

Having arrived yesterday (Sunday) I thought that I might e-mail some hints for those who are about to follow.

Firstly, you will be asked to fill in an immigration card on your way in. There are two of them and you must fill in both. If you have no idea where you are staying do not put "Hotel TAB" in that section unless you want to spend an hour or so explaining to Bosnian Immigration that you know that there is no Hotel TBA in Sarajevo etc., etc. If you simply put Sarajevo that appears to satisfy them.

On arrival at the airport there is an exchange bureau that offers reasonable rates on the Bosnian Mark and the Euro. The Bosnian Mark was pegged to the Deutsch Mark until its demise and the Euro exchange rate is now 1 Euro = 2 Bosnian Marks. Both are accepted absolutely everywhere but it is advisable changing into Euro as Bosnian Marks are much harder to change back if you have any left. It's no big hassle anyway as there are ATMs all over the place. Incidentally if you intend to use your credit card you'll need to enter your PIN on the machine as they wont accept it otherwise.

There is no public transport from the airport to the city centre so you have to get a taxi that should cost no more than 15 Euro and take 10/15 minutes. I arrived unannounced at the 3* Hotel Meridian which is smack in the town centre (Jaroslava Černija 3 tel:Sarajevo 446-177 fax:Sarajevo 446-176) and quickly negotiated them down from 79 Euro a night to 40 (for a room that sleeps 2). There is plenty of space left should anyone still be looking for somewhere to stay. Failing that it has two sister hotels which are the Hotel Villa Orient (Oprkanj 6 Tel:232-702 fax:441-044) and the Hotel Emona (BentbaSa 11 Tel:271-660/661 fax:271-662).

I have been wearing a Newcastle top since I arrived and have attracted nothing but friendly curiosity (how many fans are coming?, is Shearer playing? etc.) The main Irish bar in the city centre is the Dublin (Ferhadija 28) which is run by Bosnians and sells Guinness etc. Half a litre of local beer costs about 1 Euro but check your change that you are not getting Bosnian Marks back passed off as Euro. (I've already been given a "1998 Official England World Cup Medal" in my change. Funnily enough it was Alan Shearer so I'm unsure whether or not they were merely taking the piss.)

The football stadium is about 25 minutes walk from the city centre although it does have an Irish bar close by which is the Harp on Patriotske Lige although I haven't been there yet so don't know what it's like. Could be a useful meet up point before/after the match.

In the meantime due to NUFC's incompetence I haven't got a ticket for the match yet. Marvellous!

GOOD MORNING BRITAIN!!!!!!!!! (13.8.02)

Not such a good morning in Sarajevo. My head feels like a sack of spanners but I'll get to that later.

Spent yesterday visiting the tunnel under the airport in between several beers (still 1 Euro a pint). For those who don't know about it the Serb Chetniks had Sarajevo under siege between 1992 and 1996 and the only way that they could get anything in or out (food for instance) was by crossing the airport's main runway which was (and still is) under United Nations SFOR control.

However they kept on getting shelled and picked off by snipers so they decided to dig a tunnel under the main runway. It started off under some guy's house in Bosnia and came up under an apartment block in Sarajevo. It's 1.5 metres high, half a mile long and a metre wide.

During the siege 300,000 people passed through it and it was moving twenty tons of food/munitions a day. It also had the main electricity supply and telephone connection running through it as well as a large hose pipe that was used to pump petrol from one side to the other (I assume that it was no smoking).

Following my history lesson I popped into the Harp Irish bar next to the United Nations Building/SFOR Base for some more gargle. Unbelievably the pub is run by a bunch of Irish peace-keepers and is expat HQ. On the way back a Bosnian guy spotted the Newcastle top and adopted me, insisting on paying for my tram ticket and introducing me to the tram driver who is one of the leading lights in "The Maniacs" their lunatic fan base. He was also one of the war veterans who defended Sarajevo during the siege. I've come to expect the unexpected around here but what happened next defies belief. As we were travelling down "sniper alley" I asked him where the Chetniks were sniping from. He stopped the tram, got out and started pointing out where the Serb positions were on the hillside above. Five minutes later once he was satisfied that all of my questions had been answered we returned to the tram and continued our journey into town. He's given me his mobile number and wants to take the Newcastle fans on a piss up before the match tomorrow. It's his day off on Thursday and Hess taking me on a tour of the Serb positions and minefields in the hills above the city. Should you hear nothing further there is a corner of war torn Bosnia that is for ever Geordie.

Anyway to last night. There's a rock club here called the Marquee which has live bands and plays Pink Floyd, Zepp etc in between. Having had a monster steak meal with large amounts of beer and Bosnian brandy (five quid the lot) I popped in there for a quick one at 9.00pm. Once again several "Maniacs" adopted me and wouldn't let me buy a drink. I vaguely remember 4.00am and the hotel informs me that I arrived back at 5.30. Sarajevo claims to be mostly Muslim but all I can say is the ones that I've met must belong to some obscure sect that encourages getting pissed at every opportunity. Cirrhosis will probably get me before the minefields anyway.

Anyway, must go. More beers to down. When in a Muslim country, do as the Muslims do.

I Really Must Change My Lifestyle!!! (14.8.02)

Yesterday I thought that I had a hangover. Today I have definitely got one. Talking about today in the same terms as yesterday is like comparing AIDS with hay fever.

I have finally worked out why I'm in a Muslim country but end up pissed all the time. Apparently originally there were two types of Muslim, Sunni and Shi`ite. The Bosnian Muslims are descended from the Shi`ite faction but didn't like a couple of the rules i.e. no booze and covering up the bints' faces with veils. They therefore formed a separate sect that allowed them to drink and see what the bints looked like.

This new sect is therefore known as "Shi`ite Faced", hence the English expression. I do hope that the Ayatollah doesn't hit the Yorkshire Mags web site. (But in the unlikely event that you do and are still dishing out Fatwahs sir my real name is David Stead and I live in a small Yorkshire city called Bradford in the north of England.)

Anyway to the events of yesterday. I've learned a couple more survival techniques such as the kippers and herring rule. Basically this is that all Chetniks are Serbs but not all Serbs are Chetniks. Serbs are a race that makes up roughly twenty percent of Sarajevo`s population. Chetniks are the Serb followers of Radovan Karodich who besieged the city between 1992 and 1996. Absolutely all Chetniks are complete bastards. Serbs are only probably bastards until they prove otherwise.

Mentioning Chetniks is like chanting Sunderland songs in the Strawberry. Whenever they are introduced to the conversation it is customary to mutter "bastards" or something similar to show your sympathy. Yesterday I took a horse and cart (I kid you not.Three quid each way!) for two miles to the springs at the foothills surrounding Sarajevo. As ever I ended up tanking down 60p pints with some new foster parents. The woods above the springs are mined to hell and have become one of Europe's biggest nature reserve as no-one in their right minds would set foot in the place (not if they wanted to keep it attached to their leg anyway). As I was consuming the fourth or fifth pint (see "Hazy Sarajevo" previously) a loud explosion came from the forest about half a mile above us. The conversation was being conducted in German and my latest dad pointed up at the plume of smoke and said "schwein". Obviously I took this to be a reference to the Chetnik bastards and nodded my agreement and muttered "Chetniks". I quickly realised that this was a mistake as he became extremely excited waving his arms around shouting "Chetniks, Chetniks wohin?". After another five minutes conversation it became clear that he really was talking about real pigs. They have wild boars that roam the mountains and every now and then one gets unlucky and turns itself into a sausage. Easy mistake to make.

Needless to say I ended up comatose in the Marquee with yet more Maniacs last night, hence the hangover. I'm meeting up with them all again at 12.00noon.

I've noticed on NUFC.Cock that I can expect to pay 20 Bosnian Marks for my match ticket which is interesting seeing as the normal tickets are eight marks and "corporate" is only fifteen.

Anyway, must return to punishing my liver prior to the match

Mines A Pint! (15.8.02)

Yeah I know that I promised that my last despatch would be the final one but I knew how worried you'd all be after my trip to the minefields so thought I'd send one more.

As you've probably guessed I'm back from what was the front line and have an interesting photo for Mr Jensen. I never knew what trust meant until I ended up having a picnic surrounded by Christ knows how many mines.

Great idea sinking five pints then following a guy who tells you to tread exactly where he does. Beats arcade games any day.

The cavalry flew out on Crossair at 6.00pm tonight and I waved them goodbye from the end of the runway. The team have also buggered off leaving just me and egg.

Will see everyone Monday barring torrential downpours.

Big Issue's Rough Guide to Scousers
Thieving ba$tards? ..horrible accent?.... funny as flu? .....don't you believe it.

Alan, Michael, Tom and Nicola were made very welcome on the Yorkshire Scousers' coach last season and are partaking again soon.

Here are chairman and son in character for the trip over the Pennines back in March this year.

Back in a war zone (Liverpool)

It appears that Thursday morning’s report disappeared in cyber space somewhere giving the impression that I spent all week pissing around in minefields and didn’t even bother going to the match. As I’m now safely back in Blighty I thought that I’d remedy the situation.

The cavalry finally arrived at 12.00 noon on the day of the match in the form of three hundred Toon fans who had paid around £350 a throw to travel on a charter flight direct from Newcastle. The city centre Irish bar was quickly established as HQ with several outposts set-up in the main town squares. I quickly bumped into Paul Clark and friends who had been sold tickets at twenty Euro each at the airport. Strangely these tickets had no price on them. There was a very good reason for this - which I discovered when I purchased mine in the same section later that evening for fifteen Bosnian Marks (7.5 Euro).

Pub crawling the city centre we then met Egg and his missus who had been staying in the Holiday Inn on "Snipers Alley" since Sunday. Apparently the team were also meant to be in the Holiday Inn but switched to The Grand at the last minute. The reason being put forward was that it was a ruse by Sir Bobby to shake off the home fans and avoid being kept awake all night by klaxons etc.

Myself, Paul and his mate got a taxi to the ground at half seven and as mentioned above I easily bought a ticket. The home fans however weren't quite as lucky as there were hundreds of them who appeared to have perfectly valid tickets but the gates had been shut and they were locked out. Incredibly they were still selling tickets at the ticket office knowing full well that the home sections were full. An interesting system - there were an awful lot of very pi$$ed-off Bosnians on the street.

The atmosphere inside was brilliant and there was plenty of room in our section but the home sections looked awfully overcrowded. The only problems that we experienced during the whole stay came immediately after Kieron Dyer’s goal when we were pelted by an array of missiles including loose change, cigarette lighters, fireworks, stones etc. I was hit by a large bag of monkey nuts which were absolutely delicious as I munched my way through the second half. The guy next to me wasn't quite as lucky as he got twatted on the back of the head with an ash-tray. The fireworks blew a hole in the seat in front of Egg and set fire to one next to me. Egg won the prize for the most unusual missile of the night when he was hit by an extremely large bag of pasta! ( I can just imagine Bosnia’s equivalent of Edna checking with young Gordanovitch on his way out of the house. "Got your money? Ticket? Pasta?")

After the match they kept us behind for the usual thirty minutes prior to the long walk back into the city centre through suburbs which appeared to consist almost entirely of hastily created graveyards. After that it was back to the Irish bar and more gargle.

Thursday I spent getting smashed in various minefields (see above) and took a tram and a taxi to the airport on Friday morning where yet again I bumped into Egg and His missus. I was looking forward to buying some dirt cheap duty frees but the ba$tards that had left on the charter the previous evening had completely emptied the place and it was closed for stock- taking.

All I all it was a fantastic week and I’m definitely returning some time. I the meantime I’m meeting up with a bunch of Bosnians who want me to take them to Idols before the return leg.