Our journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina was an experience in itself. We arrived at Kinnegar late Friday evening and traveled through the night, driving to Dublin by coach, before flying via Munich and Vienna and then getting on a final flight to arrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Next we made the treacherous journey to reach our final destination, arriving in our hotel around 5 o’clock, and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow as we were eager to be well rested for the next day, our first day of skiing!
We had a late start on this day as we had to get fitted for our ski boots, poles and skis. Our first experience was getting warmed up, getting used to the skis and getting sorted into groups. We had 3 instructors Dave, Rob and Murph who were encouraging and helpful throughout the whole week. Even in temperatures as low as minus eleven they made us smile with jokes and fun exercises.
We skied for a total of 5 days from 9:00am until 4:00pm, taking a lunch break at around 1:00 each day. Each group progressed quickly with everyone managing to complete some off piste skiing and one of the groups even reaching black slopes. Every day we learnt new skills and practised ones we had been taught to perfect our technique and gain confidence on the slopes in order to achieve our Ski Foundation Level 1 Qualification. Some of the skills were learnt included snow ploughing, parallel skiing, stopping and walking up hill with skis on. We also learnt how to operate a button lift and get on and off a ski lift which some of us took a few attempts to perfect in order not to fall! Off the slopes we were taught how to use an avalanche kit, including a probe and transceiver. We additionally had the opportunity to use the kit in action as the instructor hid the transceiver outside the hotel buried in snow and in groups we had to go out and locate it within a certain time, which was very challenging and it is safe to say we weren’t the fastest!
One the Wednesday of our trip we had a break from skiing and went into the city of Sarajevo. We were given the opportunity to explore the city on a guided tour, visiting key areas involved in the Bosnian War, which lasted from 1992 to 1995 and was fought between Croats and Serbs living in Bosnia. We drove round the city listening to accounts from our tour guide, Darro, who himself grew up during the war. We saw buildings left from the time, such as a nursing home on the front line, which was left riddled with bullet holes and shrapnel.
One place we visited was the Sarajevo Tunnel, which was used by civilians and UN forces who were embroiled in the fighting in the Siege of Sarajevo. It was the only hope for some who were trapped to escape to the mountains and gather food and supplies for their family stuck in the city.
We also visited the Olympic Bobsled Track which was a 1300 metre concrete track completed in 1982 for use in the 1984 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, when the Bosnian War began in 1992, the track, like the rest of the country, became caught up in the fighting. Today, the track still stands as a favourite spot for local graffiti artists who have colourfully decorated the track. We had the pleasure of visiting this modern day piece of art while on our battlefield tour. It was a surreal experience to walk down the icy track that great Olympians once competed on.
Once the tour ended we were given the chance to explore the city on our own, with one of the highlights being McDonald’s and doing some shopping! It was a beautiful city filled with markets and stalls where we purchased souvenirs for our families such as fridge magnets and pens made from real bullets, engraved with our names- a token which we will always treasure from this trip.
In our free time there was plenty to do at the resort, including a swimming pool, sauna, games room and pizzeria where we spent lots of time chatting with the locals. It was never boring and there was always a pool game going on or time to relax in the sauna.
After an amazing week our journey home was just as eventful! A four-hour delay in Sarajevo airport resulted in us missing our connecting flight from Munich to Dublin, so instead we were routed through Frankfurt and finally arrived back in Kinnegar at 2:00am rather than the expected 8pm. However, this only meant we had more time to spend with the new friends we made on the trip and it was hard saying goodbye to the people who made the trip even more enjoyable.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and we will always treasure the memories we made in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We would like to thank all at Ulysses Trust , as without their funding we wouldn’t have been given this incredible opportunity. It is with great sadness that in March this year we will both age out of cadets, but it was the best way to end our time with ACF.
BY : Cadet Sgt Mollie Hughes
Cadet Sgt Ellen McKibben
Ballykinler Detachment ACF
C/Sgt Alan Murphy