Srebrenica has many sad stories to tell.
The saddest, of course, is the 1995 massacre in which more than 8000 Bosniak boys and men were killed methodically within just a few days by members of the Republika Srpska’s army in an attempt of ethnic cleansing of the area. We visited the Srebrenica-Potoćari memorial and burial site upon leaving the town. The long list of names of all those killed is carved in stone there. Not all the graves are filled. The process of finding mass graves and identifying the remains is still ongoing. Very few of the persons responsible have been brought to court.
Before leaving the town we had quite a long and interesting chat with … hm, I’ll just call him ‘a random guy’. He didn’t say it explicitely, but from a few comments of his it seems clear that he and his family are Bosniaks (that is, Bosnian muslims) originating from Srebrenica. He told us about the de-mining process (it is a slow and dangerous task, carried out by Bosnians, by the way), about corruption and the billion dollars that were sunk in Srebrenicas rebuilding, and about the region’s touristic potential. Lots of interesting projects, by the way. Let me know if you’re interested in an unpaid summer job. :)
He also told us of the Guber, a stream that is very rich in different minerals and which has its sources (up to 40) in the mountains a few hundred meters above the town. Each of the sources contains different amounts of several minerals, and according to local knowledge can be used to heal or help with certain diseases. We immediately decided to pay a visit to those sources.
He went on to tell us about a project by some foreign rich dude. That guy wanted to build a spa in which the Guber’s waters would be used to treat people suffering from e.g. multiple sclerosis. He went through all kinds of hoops to obtain all the necessary bureaucratic permits and started building. Half-way through the permits were revoked, probably to extort some more money. A nice example of a corrupt government.
So we cycled up into the mountains to have a look at the Guber and another sad story unfolded in front of our eyes.
We found the less than semi-finished spa high up in the hills, fenced off, built across the Guber which now flows in concrete tunnels underneath the compound. Two unkindly placed plastic pipes spat water from two of the Guber’s sources. We climbed around the fences to have a closer look inside. The uglyness of the whole thing was hard to believe. The formerly beautiful valley had been extended to make room for three large buildings and a pyramid-shaped fourth one in the center. Age-old staircases to one of the springs had just been cut off and the paths were ‘dangling’ with no way to reach the spring anymore.
There were signs everywhere that made it clear that construction had been stopped from official side and any work was forbidden.
What an unbelievably horrible example of capitalism and greed, and above all, totally gone wrong. A lovely place that was free for everyone to enjoy and use has been destroyed and was going to be turned into an exclusive spa for a few with money. The corruption within the Republika Srpska’s government then made it unusable for everyone.
We left in a sad, angry and disappointed mood.
The remaining cycling for the day went by quickly. We followed the Drina river to the north on the Bosnian side of the river, leaving the mountains behind. The countryside is getting flatter.
We expected rain for the night. We found a sandy, mosquito-infested, somewhat ugly place directly at the river for the night, had a quick bath and a quick dinner, and disappeared inside our tents just as the thunderstorm started.