This year, Sarajevans will celebrate 137 years of the Sarajevo Tram. In 1884, at the behest of the Czar, the streets of Sarajevo were paved and a tram line was installed from Latin Bridge all the way to the old train station, which was located close to where Bristol Hotel is today.At 10:00 a.m. on January 1, 1885, the first tram, pulled by horses, passed through the city. News spread like wildfire because Sarajevo was the first city in the Balkans and Central Europe to have a tram. The first tram operator was Johann Hanke, who drove passengers along the 3.1-km-long track for 5 kreuzers.
It was the golden age of industrialization, when electric energy was changing people’s habits and lives at an ever faster pace. A power distribution center was installed on Hiseta St. in 1895 to supply the tram and street lights with electricity. This meant that only 10 years after the first “iron horse” (a horse-drawn tram) had passed the city, an electric tram started running through town, much to the surprise of Sarajevans. The new tram was produced by the German company, Siemens-Schuckertwerke.
Since then, this favorite and oldest form of public transportation has played in the lives of the city and its inhabitants. As Sarajevo expanded, new tram tracks and lines were made. Today the tram tracks follow the right bank of the Miljacka, crossing it at one point, and run from Bascarsijaa to Ilidza, with seven different lines and six kinds of tram cars running along the 22.9 km of tracks.
During the 20th century, the tram continued to be much more than just a means of transport. Some of the stops became meeting places and favorite gathering places for youth, like the stop at the Central Bank in the center of town, known as “Ceka” (wait) to Sarajevans. The trams even served as a venue for poetry readings and short performances and plays.
But the war brought everything to a halt. While no trams were running from 1992 to 1994, they continued to serve Sarajevans as much as they could in given situations. The cars, usually burned out, served as cover from sniper fire. The tram even started running again during a brief cease fire in 1994, giving hope that the war would soon be over.
Since the war, the tram tracks have undergone many reconstructions. Many friendly nations have donated tram cars, helping the 100-year old story of the Sarajevo Tram to continue and it’s still here, running along the right bank of the river. Once again, the tracks connect people and their destinies.
The first post-war play to be performed in a tram was put on in July 2013 and students from the Music Academy often delight their fellow Sarajevans by singing popular and classical melodies in the tram.
The story of Sarajevo wouldn’t be the same without the 137 years of its tram. Life in town would also be unthinkable without the 95 trams which run from the early morning hours until midnight.