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New Europe

Day Sixteen: Sarajevo

Michael Palin - New Europe'We have found four anti-tank mines and one anti-personnel just in the bush area over there, so it's a live minefield. Stay within the marked area. Do not go through the tapes. Keep your helmet on at all times.'

We're less than a mile to the west of Vrelo Bosne, one of Sarajevo's most popular picnic spots, where tables are set beneath overhanging willow trees and horse-drawn carriages can be hired by the hour.

There are no horse-drawn carriages where we are. There are pick-up trucks and four-wheel drives, an ambulance, men with helmets and visors and sniffer dogs. The woods and meadows are ringed with red and white police tape and marked with skull and crossbone signs. This is poisoned country, one of Bosnia's many minefields. If you picnic here you could be killed.

'If something happens, do not run, just stay put. There is medical support in place. If something happens they will help you out of the minefield still alive.'

With a disarming grin, Damir, a strong, stocky ex-soldier who's in charge of this clearance operation, brings our briefing to an end, jabs his head towards the fields and beckons us to follow. I'm wearing a flak jacket and helmet, but somehow that just makes me feel more vulnerable, as if something really could go wrong out there. All of us have had to sign disclaimer forms and fill in our blood groups.

We set off along an avenue of blue and white plastic tape. On one side, up the slope, the field has been shaved almost down to the bare earth; on the other side, the uncut grass of the valley floor is threaded with a profusion of blue, red and yellow wild flowers - buttercups, gentian, daisies.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Sixteen: Sarajevo
  • Country/sea: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Place: Sarajevo
  • Book page no: 42

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