The tour van picked us up from the hotel at 10.45 this morning to take us to Zenica. As we left Sarajevo we drove past the Zetra Olympic Stadium and I was reminded again of Torvill and Dean’s dance and the horror that befell the complex eight years later. There is footage here.
We paid our highway toll of 12Km and followed the valley of the meandering river Bosna north to Zenica, an industrial city, the fourth largest in the country, and home to the Vranduk fortress. As we entered the city, Benjamin pointed out a huge steel works, telling us that before the war it provided jobs to over 20,000 people. Now it’s 6,000.
We’d arrived in Zenica early, so Amila of the British Council who is coordinating the tour, took us to visit Vranduk, one-time residence of the Kings of Bosnia. The stone fortress itself has recently been renovated with funds from the EU – and the views from up there are spectacular. After a coffee break, we headed into the city to the theatre.
BNP Zenica (Bosnian National Theatre) is a huge ex-Yugoslav building constructed in the 1970s, originally designed to resemble a circus big top, but a lack of funds meant the final details were never completed. Nonetheless, it is a grand building with a vast stage space. On our arrival the technicians had already constructed our set, giving us plenty of time to rehearse and focus before the performance.
Another strong audience turnout made for another good show, which somehow felt more relaxed than in Sarajevo – I think because we’d already performed once, any nerves had dissipated. On taking our bows, members of the audience threw roses. It was like Ravel at the Paris Opera all over again.
We headed back to Sarajevo after the show feeling tired but happy. On returning to the city, we drove past the spot where the Archduke was shot by Princip in 1914. All the stories we tell really do make up the physical fabric of the country in which we’re touring. It means the show is always on your mind, adding weight to the experience of being here.
Tomorrow we drive further north to Tuzla.