Edmond Offermann’s dream turned to reality after 20 years on Friday when the landmark Sarajevo cable car, destroyed early in Bosnia’s 1990s war, resumed services up Mount Trebevic above the capital.
The brand new gondola brought joy to young and old alike and not least to Offermann, a wealthy Dutch-born American businessman and philanthropist who was a driving force behind the restoration project.
“This is a special feeling,” Offermann told Reuters aboard the cable car, peering down at the rugged, sometimes snow-capped scenery around and trying to recognize places he remembered from his last ride up in 1991, just before the war broke out.
“I am thrilled with this whole experience. I thought in 1998, when I first visited Sarajevo after the war, that a cable car had to come back.”
The cable car first went into operation nearly 60 years ago, ranking Sarajevo among the few cities where one could reach pine forests in just 10 minutes from an urban city center.
But during the 1992-95 war, when nationalist Serb forces besieged Sarajevo, often with artillery fire from the slopes of Trebevic, the once favored destination for recreation turned into a source of fear and terror.
For years after the war, fear of lingering land mines and a lack of usable roads meant that few Sarajevans dared to return to Trebevic for the walks, picnics and winter sports they enjoyed before the conflict. Trebevic, in fact, was the venue for the bobsleigh course in the 1984 Winter Olympics.