We wake up to pretty grim weather. During the night another big thunderstorm passed over. We’re pretty happy to have been able to spend it in a comfortable warm bed. The room came with a nice large breakfast and we supplement it with a very tasty cappuccino. The mosque on the other side of the river looks even bigger than it seemed last night. There’s also a lot of Turkish flags around. At the entrance to the park next to our hotel a large sign says it has been built with Turkish funding. Goražde has a large Bosniak Muslim community, but is located smack on the border with the Serbian part of Bosnia, the Republica Srpska.
Our main target for today is located in Srpska as well. Last time we were in Bosnia, we didn’t make it to Srebrenica. This time around we owe it to ourselves to pay a visit and our respects. Back on our bikes, leaving town the skies are still very grey. It’s pretty obvious we have a wet day ahead of us. But that’s probably rather appropriate for our visit to the Srebrenica memorial.
First we’ll make a small detour across the mountains and than following the Drina river to Visegrad. A place recommended to us by the girl running the cafe in Lukomir. Supposedly it has a very impressive historical bridge. On the way we are reminded again that this was also part of the front line during the civil war in the nineties. Small graveyards and memorial plaques are everywhere, but also numerous warning signs for land mines.
The bridge in Visegrad isn’t quite as impressive as we were led to believe. But at least the sun is out for the moment and it has warmed up a bit. We don’t even bother to take off our helmets for the photo and are on our way again pretty quickly. A small road leads us North towards Srebrenica across the mountains again. It’s a narrow winding road, but in truly perfect condition. Looks like the tarmac is pretty new. It also does not coincide at all with any of the roads on our GPS or maps. But we’re sorta kinda going in the correct general direction.
The bridge in Visegrad isn’t quite as impressive as we were led to believe.
In better conditions it would have been a pretty fun ride. But right now it’s just cold and wet. We are hit with a few rain showers and need to stop a few times to get our bearings and make sure we’re still heading in the right direction. With all the water coming down I also need to pee a lot. It’s a curse. Besides being uncomfortable dealing with all the wet and cold and damp gloves all the time I also still recall the warning sign for mines earlier. Luckily we haven’t seen any more of those for a while. Still, I don’t take any risks and pick a tree close to the road.
Once in the valley on the other side of the mountain range the rain eases off. We could use a coffee and another toilet break, though. A little cafe at a lonely fuel station seems as good a place as any. When we go in the atmosphere seems a bit weird.
Some places immediately let you know you’re not really welcome.
The usual crappy dance music is playing and there’s a few locals hanging around. But strangely enough, no-one says another word as soon as we enter. Feels like we’re intruding on something. Nevertheless, we order 2 cappuccinos to warm up. These guys just keep quietly staring at us sipping our coffees until we leave. Some places immediately let you know you’re not really welcome.
Continuing our journey we aren’t very talkative either. Neither of us is sure what to expect from the memorial site. We’ll pass by the UN encampment and the memorial in Potocari first before riding through Srebrenica proper. The sky is still ominously grey and there’s again a light drizzle going on when we arrive. The compound where Dutchbat was stationed looks like it was frozen in time exactly like it was in the nineties. The memorial across the street looks like many other Muslim graveyards we have visited, but at a whole different scale.
At the official opening of the memorial 8372 identified men and boys were (re-)buried here from various mass graves in the surrounding mountains. Since then, on a very regular basis, additional victims are given a grave here after being identified. Often with the help of DNA analysis. Back in 2014 during our visit to Sarajevo we stumbled upon an item in the daily news mentioning another 200 bodies from mass graves had been identified. That process still hasn’t been completed and continues until today.
From the entrance of the memorial a path leads straight towards a large marble semi-circle listing all the names of the men and boys buried here. There’s still plenty of empty spaces to fill. The register of names surrounds a large pergola with carpets on the floor where people and families are sitting and praying. Nearby are some water features and low sinks for washing before prayer.
In a rather gloomy mood we hop back on the bikes and ride towards Srebrenica
After taking our time walking past all the graves we don’t really feel like also visiting the old UN compound across the street which played such a crucial role in this dark episode of the civil war. In a rather gloomy mood we hop back on the bikes and ride towards Srebrenica, just a couple of kilometers down the road. It seems a pretty insignificant little town. But in the center an unexpected sight brings back a spark of hope. Next to a beautifully maintained orthodox church is a brand new nicely decorated mosque.
There doesn’t seem to be much else to see in Srebrenica, so we just continue towards the border with Serbia. Yet another mountain pass takes us to the bridge across the Drina river which marks the border in these parts. Paperwork and administration is dealt with very efficiently and friendly. Before we know it we’re riding into Bajina Basta, looking for an ATM to get some Serbian Dinars. While we’re parked for a second at the side of the road figuring out which direction to go, a young guy covered in tattoos and piercings comes over to ask what we’re looking for. He kindly points us to the nearest bank which has an ATM we can use our Belgian bank cards on. A warm welcome to Serbia! And much appreciated because it is Sunday today so pretty much everything is closed.
We’re hoping to find a nice camping spot in Tara National Park, preferably somewhere near Zaovine lake. The skies grow darker again the closer we get to the lake though and when we reach its shores a massive downpour descends on us. It’s extreme enough to make us turn around and take the fastest route through the park towards Kremna, where according to our GPS maps, we should find a proper camp site.
The old farmer running the place gives us another very warm welcome and we put up our tent in his pear tree orchard. While I fill out the paper work he tells me his life’s story and offers home made pear rakija, or “grutchko”. He’s not allowed to drink it himself anymore by his doctor after a triple bypass. But he proudly points to the awards he won with his own little distillery. It sure was an eventful day!