Let us build a monument to remind us of our futuristic past.
-Sign outside of Tito's Bunker
For 26 years starting in 1953, a group of construction workers was blindfolded and transported to a plain-looking house by the Neretva river in Konjic. Only once inside the building site were the workers allowed to remove their blindfolds. Why the over-the-top secrecy?? Because ARK (Atomska Ratna Komanda, Atomic War Command) D-0, referred to today as Tito’s nuclear bunker. Essentially, this was a horseshoe-shaped complex built 663 feet into the mountain behind the house, constructed at the insistence of Yugoslav president Josip Tito to protect him from the threat of a nuclear strike. By the time the project was completed in 1979, only 16 people knew of the bunker and even they had taken a solemn oath to safeguard the bunker’s secret location. Equipment and technology was extremely advanced for the time, including rooms of code-producing typewriters and red telephones, and has remained untouched for the past 38 years.
While the completed bunker cost a whopping $4.6 billion and took the lives of many construction workers, it was built to serve only Tito and 350 of the country’s most important political and military persons for up to 6 months. The interior is pretty drab (as one would expect) with low ceilings, small rooms, harsh fluorescent lights, stale air, and an abundance of perfectly-preserved Soviet-style furniture. In 1992, Serbian military powers demanded that the Bosnian military destroy the site and thankfully the Bosnians refused, meaning that the bunker I visited was an authentic “time capsule from a more paranoid time.” Since 2011, Tito’s bunker has served as host to a Biennial of Contemporary Art since 2011, called "D-0 ARK Underground" and voted the best cultural event in 2011 by the Council of Europe, so crazy art work is all over the bunker making it difficult to differentiate what’s old and what’s art.
Konjic is located halfway between Mostar and Sarajevo, or an hour’s bus ride from each. Tito’s bunker is open to the public, but it’s situated a short distance from downtown and requires a reservation in advance through Visit Konjic, the town’s tourist company. A ticket is about $13 and includes transportation to/from the site, a knowledgeable guide, and a 60- to 90-minute tour. (Unable to find an official-looking website on the bunker, I booked the tour through Viator.com, which I otherwise refuse to use because it is a subsidiary of travel monopoly TripAdvisor.) Visiting Tito’s bunker from Sarajevo or Mostar with public transportation is simple and inexpensive; there are plenty of buses and Visit Konjic will happily help you with the bus schedule, just be aware that many bus companies operate the route so I don’t suggest buying a round-trip ticket with one company.
Tour of Tito's Bunker
The city of Konjic is one of Bosnia’s oldest permanent settlements with a history that dates back nearly 4000 years. With just 26,000 residents Konjic is fairly small with not much tourist activity outside of the Stara Ćuprija Ottoman-style bridge built in the late 1600s. The city is typical for Bosnia, with a mix of old and new buildings, mosques, cemeteries, and busy markets along the Neretva river selling produce and plastic home goods to locals. Tourism in Konjic is growing because of the area’s abundance of natural attractions: green, lush mountains perfect for hiking and cycling; clear emerald water begging for rafters and canoers; the traditional Bosnian ethno village Lukomir.