Africa from Europe
Bosnia is different. I had to realize that right after the border crossing. With warning signs of minefields I was greeted on the first kilometers. The state of Bosnia and Hercegovina exists only since 1995 (Dayton Treaty). The Dayton Treaty ended the war in the country and created a unified but highly decentralized (federal) state.
Bosnia and Hercegovina is a multicultural country. 44 percent of the population are Muslims (mostly Bosniaks), 31.5 percent Serbian Orthodox (mostly Serbs) and 17 percent Catholics (mostly Croats). The rest of the population belongs to one of the 17 officially recognized minorities.
I had an unpleasant acquaintance with one of these minorities on the first evening. So far, I've always found a safe place to sleep for a night somewhere near a sports stadium or school building. In Gradačac it looked like rain. At the sports stadium I therefore tried to find a safe place for the night. Just when I wanted to set up my sleeping place, a gang of Roma children appeared. With great difficulty, I just made it to the next gas station. The children tried to pull my bags off the bike and threw stones at me. Fortunately, a helpful man helped me at the gas station. He accompanied me with his car to the next hotel, where I could sleep safely. Not exactly a dream start. But the flip side followed the next day. In Srebrenik I wanted to visit the castle.
At the supermarket, I made a brief stop. Two men immediately spoke to me in German. Meho and his neighbor Sehalia worked for 40 years near mining in Dortmund. They did not want to drive me up to the castle by bike. Without re-speech, I gladly accepted her offer with her car up there. Then I was invited by them for lunch (stuffed peppers).
The roads here are extremely narrow and the drivers sometimes quite ruthless when dealing with cyclists. Often, only the jump into the street ditch was a sure rescue. Most of the roads here were built in the 60's and are no longer prepared for today's traffic. In Tuzla, a racing cyclist helped me find a room (Sobe). After several cancellations, he invited me to his home.
Izudin worked as a fitter in Innsbruck for 10 years, discovering cycling. Every day he tries to spend a few miles on his racing bike. He knows the ways in his country very well and could give me a lot of tips for my onward journey. He calls his country the Africa of Europe. A very apt comparison found the many I spoke to it.
Just outside Tuzla I met the first bike traveler ever. Rich comes from the USA and has been traveling around the world regularly for several years.
In Potočari I got to know another important and very sad part of the history of this country. The main monument and cemetery for the genocide of Srebrenica are in Potočari.
During the Bosnian war, the village was located in the enclave Srebrenica. Here was the Dutch UN battalion "Dutchbat" on the site of a decommissioned car battery factory. As in all other places in the enclave, the population increased because the village received refugees from neighboring parts of Bosnia.
In July 1995, the Serbian troops here and at other crime scenes in the area committed the massacre of Srebrenica. There is a small, rundown museum in the factory. The massacre is considered the worst war crime in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Already completed trials before international courts have shown that the crimes were not spontaneous, but systematically planned and implemented.
Unfortunately, even 20 years later, neither the UN nor anyone else seems to be really interested in quickly clearing up the genocide. Muslim men between the ages of 10 and 70 were systematically murdered and dispersed in several mass graves. To date, more than 8,000 victims have been identified. For each victim is a tombstone in the cemetery. When you look at the tombstones, you first become aware of the dimension of this crime. An inscription on the memorial place I found very important:
"In the name of God,
the compassionate one "
"We pray to Almighty God.
May complaints become hopes.
May revenge become righteousness.
May the tears of the mothers become prayers.
So that Srebrenica never happens again.
For nobody and nowhere. "
Behind the monument I was allowed to build my tent and spend the night there.
On the way to Sarajevo I met a South Korean couple. They travel since 2.5 years from Australia through Asia and Europe.
I visited Sarajevo the last time 10 years ago. I was very curious how the city has changed in the meantime. Izudin had recommended a campsite near the airport for me. There I was able to recover for 3 days and visit the city. I did not recognize many things in the city anymore. Baščaršijske, the center of Sarajevo, I like to call "little Istanbul".
Sarajevo became known worldwide through three events: the assassination of Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 (which led to the outbreak of World War I), the 1984 Winter Olympics, and the siege by Vojska Republike Srpske troops during the 1992-95 Bosnia war.
Coincidentally, next to the Catholic Cathedral, I discovered a gallery on July 11, 1995, where the whole civil war and the genocide of Srebrenica are well represented in an art gallery. Very close to the campsite is the tunnel Spasa. He was a refuge tunnel during the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995) and served from mid-1993 both to escape from and supply to the beleaguered city.
After the three relaxing days we continued through the mountains towards Montenegro. I consciously chose a little the side streets to get an insight into the rural life. At first, Bosnia and Herzegovina made a rather lethargic impression on me. Over time, however, I also got to know a lot of great and hospitable people. The country is and has always been an intersection between Orient and Occident and will remain so in the future. Exactly this diversity makes this country so unique for me.