Interested in the history of the Balkans and want to know more about the Srebrenica Memorial?
You’ve probably heard and seen a lot about the town of Srebrenica and the Srebrenica Memorial, right? Well, me too. And, unfortunately, it became a sad symbol of the Bosnian War.
While I was living in Bosnia, I felt that I needed to see this place with my own eyes, with a friend of mine.
I had a few questions going through my mind before we took the car and made a day-trip to a place that became famous in a tragic way.
Trip to the Srebrenica Memorial
I was curious of what it would look like in real life, what the atmosphere would be like, and if I would be able to match it with the images that I had seen on television. Srebrenica is a painful part of Balkan history.
It was a dreary Saturday morning when we left Sarajevo behind us. We didn’t have a map as I completely trusted Google Maps on my phone. As it would turn out later, it’s not always the smartest move when you follow the more unbeaten path in Bosnia or the Balkans in general. In a previous blog, I am sharing some tips on this.
Normally it’s a two and a half hour trip to Srebrenica from Sarajevo by car. The town is situated in the Western part of the country, very close to the Serbian border. Everything was going pretty well until we lost the GPS signal on my phone.
Before we knew it, we were completely lost. We drove on muddy roads and even entered a part of the country filled with landmines.
It was too early for us to give up on our lives, so we turned around. We managed to find some locals who pointed us in the right direction. We thanked them by buying some of the eggs and fruit they offered. That was the least we could do.
I have a basic knowledge of Bosnian and that really helped. A conversation in English wasn’t very fruitful in some of the small villages we were passing through.
It took us around four hours before we were finally back on track with some help from the locals. I was behind the steering wheel and it was quite a relief when I saw the sign of Srebrenica again. We were getting close now.
As I wrote earlier, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how big or small the town would be. Before we even approached the town of Srebrenica, we could already see the large burial grounds on the side of the road also known as the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center.
We decided to get out of the car and to have a look. While standing there, it felt impressive but sad at the same time. We passed grave after grave while we read the names of the victims. It looked like an endless sight of graves.
What happened at Srebrenica?
When I walked around the burial ground, I started to think of what happened here in the mid-nineties. A genocide known as the Srebrenica Massacre occurred in July 1995, during the height of the Bosnian War.
According to the United Nations, the town of Srebrenica was marked as a so-called safe area.
However, Bosnian Serb forces ultimately invaded the town. Following the raid, thousands of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys were killed and buried in mass graves. The massacre was eventually deemed a genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The events in Srebrenica are considered one of the worst atrocities committed in Europe since the Second World War. As we continued to walk through the memorial ground, we came across more names showcased on remembrance stones going round in an oval shape.
After an impressive stroll we decided to head back to the car. We wanted to see the town of Srebrenica. To my surprise, the town wasn’t that big. I thought it would be different somehow, but there was a peaceful and calm atmosphere in the town surrounded by hills.
It seemed that the burial grounds were much larger than the town itself, which was a sad conclusion to us.
We had a drink and some snacks on the balcony of one of the hotels. We overlooked the main road and a few shops. Some cars drove by and some locals greeted each other from the other side of the road. Nothing special, not much happened. There was some building going on, though.
But it all seemed so calm and relaxed. Such a contrast to the events of 1995, I thought. At that moment I realized that life goes on for the people in Srebrenica despite the tragedies that have happened in the past. To move on, but not to forget.
Srebrenica became a symbol of the tragedies of the Bosnian War. Nowadays, every year on July 11th, a memorial ceremony is held to honor the victims of the massacre and pay respect to the thousands of Bosniaks who lost their lives.
Is there an entrance fee to Srebrenica?
It’s important to know there is a difference between the town of Srebrenica and the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.
You don’t have to pay an entrance fee.
I would definitely recommend a guided tour to have a deeper understanding about this place. You can book it by clicking on the link below:
Doing such a tour is a great way to get the best insights.
The Road back to Sarajevo
At some point, we knew that we had to drive back to Sarajevo. The way from Sarajevo proved already quite difficult for us without a proper GPS signal, so we weren’t too keen on driving in the dark. Shortly after we left Srebrenica, we met some Bosnian cows on the road.
Not the first time and probably also not the last time during my travels in this region. Never a dull moment in the Balkans!
The road back was much more comfortable. The experience in the morning helped us to drive home without getting lost again.
The Wrap-Up: A Trip to Srebrenica Memorial
It was an impressive trip to a place with a sad and turbulent history. If you want to know more about the Bosnian War then I would recommend visiting Srebrenica and the memorial center on a day-trip.
It was also nice and interesting to speak with the local people in Srebrenica to get better insights and better understanding.
Make sure to bring a map with you if you’re going by car from Sarajevo or any other city in Bosnia, just in case.
Your restless voyager,