The Topdeck Mega European Tour continues on this morning as we leave behind the events of last night and exchange stories on how we all got back to the hostel in Belgrade. Today we are heading to our next country, Bosnia and Herzegovina and its capital city Sarajevo. Before we make it to Sarajevo we have one important stop to make and that is in a small town called Srebrenica where some of the worst war crimes were committed during the Yugoslav wars.
01 June, 2012 – Belgrade to Sarajevo
Today we leave Serbia and head over the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina which could be argued as suffering the biggest loses as part of the tearing apart of the former Yugoslavia. Our first stop is a small out of the way town called Srebrenica, a town small enough that I had never heard of until now, and now I will never forget about it. When this war was going on I was only young, I knew about it, but didn’t know many details on it, after visiting Srebrenica I now realise what a big deal this war was.
On arrival into Srebrenica, we went straight to a large memorial site called “Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide” which is still being put together and will be for many more years to come as more and more bodies are being found and identified. As you walk into the cemetery you are immediately impacted by the scale of this war with the amount of tomb stones that are scattered throughout the site.
Green painted sticks mark the spot where someone has been buried but a tomb stone has yet to be made, there are many of these scattered throughout the area. There is also a wall with the names of thousands of people who were killed, those who are buried and those who are yet to be found as they are still searching for the mass graves people were executed around.
After an initial look around we went inside a room where we met our guide, a survivor of the war who told us all about what went on during those years, how families were separated and how thousands of innocent people were murdered. After our talk was finished we looked around the room at some of the photos that were taken during the war and some of the chilling images of the people who were killed during this time.
Next we were taken across the road to an old factory building which was the headquarters for the United Nations during the siege, more specifically it was where the Dutch peacekeepers who were supposed to be looking after the people were stationed. The building has been left as it was from the time it was occupied, the only addition was a small movie theatre which has been added to show a movie to us to learn more about the history of the conflict.
Inside the building it is dark and gloomy, setting the perfect tone for what went on in here. The Dutch peacekeepers at one point finally decided to let the people inside the building for protection, after a few days they forced them to leave even with Serbian troops waiting outside the gates for them. The women are children were taken to one location, then men to another, they were never seen again.
Inside this building are pictures around the walls showing images of that time again, the whole time while in the building you can hear a pin drop it was that silent. There is nothing really more than can be said about this, it is a place you need to experience for yourself to get a real understanding on what went on here, and to hear it from someone who was there first hand makes all the difference.
Website of the memorial can be found HERE (not in English).
After watching a movie, we left the old factory and it was now time for us to leave Srebrenica and head for the capital Sarajevo. We arrived in the city and drove past what were some famous buildings during the conflict, one being a hotel that was the only safe haven for the media during the war. We arrived at a hotel, however apparently Topdeck booked us in another place so there was some initial confusion, we moved onto the place where we would be staying, a camping ground with cabin accommodation which was pretty good.
On arrival they had some welcome drinks for us at the front of the site waiting after we settled in and were waiting for the coach to come and pick us up for our look around Sarajevo. We caught the coach into the city centre, again one thing I love about these old communist cities is the tram system, being a Melbournian I am fond of trams, but in all these cities they are very run down communist style looking, but run very well.
Once in the city we are taken on a short tour of the city, we walk down Sniper Alley where Serbian troops were posted as snipers shooting anyone who dared to walk down the road, and we also check out the outside of the many churches in the area. We are then left to wonder on our own and meet back for our included group dinner in a restaurant around the corner in the old part of town.
One of the main attractions is the Latin Bridge, this was basically the location that triggered World War I with the assassination of the Archduke of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire Franz Ferdinand.
After dinner we all met in the city square and walked back to the coach to be taken back to our cabins on the outskirts of the town. Tonight was a pretty quiet night given the events of the day were a bit of a downer, and many of us had a big night in Belgrade. Tomorrow we start to get a bit of a break not having so many one night stays, in the morning we stop over in Mostar before heading to our next country Croatia and the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.
DOWNLOAD: Topdeck Sarajevo City Guide