Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt tour Rogatica, Foca, Gorazde Eastern Bosnia
Rogatica isn't a very memorable place, except it was one of the cruelest places in Eastern Bosnia during the war (it was the scene of the some of the most horrific crimes during the Bosnian war were people were killed by giant saws at the local saw mill). Eastern Bosnia is undeveloped and mountainous with nice natural beauty. It has great lush forests and some nice rivers like the Drina and some smaller ones.
Gorazde has a huge settlement of Stecaks the ancient Bosnian graves of the indigenous people of Bosnia the Bogomils. The Bogomils practiced a mixture of Christianity and traditional folklore beliefs. The Bogomils were considered heretical by the Romans and were persecuted greatly for there openness and tolerance. The openness and acceptance in Bosnia and the persecution of such by others is a long tradition in Bosnia.
Gorazde has amazing beautiful mountains but you have to be careful, this area was cut off from the rest of Bosnian government territory during the war and is still heavily mined. The areas are well marked but there are still about 750,000 landmines left in Bosnia, down from a wartime total of about 3 million.
Foca was the scene of terrible crimes both in WWII and in the Bosnian war, the locals both Bosnian and those who supported multi ethnic Bosnia were persecuted and killed. The Vilna Vlas hotel is a must avoid, as this place was a rape camp in the Bosnian war. As hard as it is to imagine, the hotel is still in use and it's previous purpose, I am sure will be denied by it's current administration. That being said Foca is a beautiful town and is home to the most open and progressive mayor in Bosnia, Zdravko Krsmanovic. If there were more people with his courage and honesty in politics in BiH, it would be a much better place. Foca has an old monastery and some other sights around it to be seen.
There are better places to visit in BiH but this little route is an easy way to see rural life in Eastern Bosnia from Sarajevo. When you travel to Republic Srpska (the Bosnian Serb entity in BiH) they make it obvious that it is no longer "Bosnian" but "Serbian" first. The rule of law is weaker in Eastern Bosnia so getting stopped by the police and paying a bribe is more likely to occur (even though this could happen anywhere in BiH) here than other places. Remember police in Bosnia make about $100 usd a week and many can barely read or write (from my own personal experience from getting into an accident in Sarajevo) so some find no issue in getting some coffee or pivo (beer) money. My most memorable experience in Eastern Bosnia (besides visiting Srebrenica and Poticari) was seeing signs in Serbian villages stating "why has God abandoned us" Eastern Bosnia is the poorest, least developed area of Bosnia and needs the connection to Sarajevo (it's regional and geographical center more so than Banja Luka. The current administration in RS is focused on developing Western RS in the Banja Luka region and ignores mostly, the plight of those in Eastern Bosnia.