This page contains advice on the climate, currency, travel, food, amenities and pricing that will be essential for your time in Bosnia. It also mentions important information and advice about the culture, history and religions of our host nation.
Srebrenica is on the eastern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), close to the Drina river which forms this border with Serbia. The climate is continental but we can expect low to mid thirties (°c) with little activity from the locals between 10am and 4pm. Sun-cream is highly recommended as are hats.
Thunderstorms break the heat and are intense, lightening being as plentiful as the rain which quickly forms streams down the roads.
For that possibility and to allow the best opportunity to enjoy the beautiful peaks and troughs of the hills and valleys which dominate the forest-laden land, I would recommend a pair of hiking boots or similar sturdy, waterproof footwear. Flip flops are cool in the heat but will tire on the rugged roads and paths.
Warning: When out of the town (the border between urban and rural is virtually invisible) do stick to the paths or if wandering from them make sure you go where a local leads. It hard to know how many landmines litter the countryside, but they are there. In my 3 years there I never went walking alone. The benefit of being led by a local is their thorough knowledge of the flora and fauna making the walk all the more enjoyable.
A second bank has recently opened so there are now two cash machines. The main supermarket (there is a smaller store as well) does accept credit/debit cards, but generally cash is king. The local currency is Bosnian Konvertible Marks (KM), but most places take Euros and some even Serbian Dinar. There will be a large number of people in Srebrenica during the 10 days or so and I’m not sure how much cash the ATMs hold, or how often they are replenished so I would recommend taking some Euros out with you.
Please keep all your boarding passes, train tickets, bus tickets anything that looks like travel and bring these to the Youth Centre during your stay. If you need reimbursing for some trave we will organise a time when this can be done. There will be a box in the Youth Centre office marked boarding cards. Please put your boarding cards in this box. On the return journey please make sure you keep these and probably the best thing to do is to give them to your group leader, on the plane, who will make sure I get them.
Food for journeys
You will be able to have breakfast at the airport in London or whichever airport you depart from or bring something with you. Most of you are coming via Vienna, or going direct to Belgrade. Those coming via Vienna on the way out have a very short transfer time. The plane to Sarajevo from Vienna always waits for the other flight to arrive in my experience. There is one small café near the gate at Vienna airport so my suggestion to either bring sandwiches from home or buy them at your departure airport. There is nowhere to buy anything when you land at Sarajevo airport and you will get straight onto the bus and travel for around three and a half – four hours to Srebrenica.
You will arrive between 6.30 and 7pm. We will find a way to get some water onto the bus that collects you at Sarajevo airport.
We will provide a packed lunch for the Diverse City group that arrives on the 16th as Ademir will be arriving from Srebrenica in the 9 seater to take Dave, Jason and Sean and all the equipment quickly and directly to Srebrenica.
There is a stop on the way and petrol stations sell all the usual chocolate crisps etc., Some do take Euros but it would be an idea for someone to get a small amount of cash out of the ATM machine at the airport in local currency.
When you get to Srebrenica you will be met by your landladies and taken to your accommodation or driven direct to the hotel. We will all eat that night in the hotel which is about a ten minute walk uphill from the town centre. Those who find the walk difficult can be driven up….and driven down again. Practically everything, except the hotel, is a 5 mins walk of everything else. The town is small and safe.
Alister and his team and George will pick up the 9 seater mini bus at the airport and wait for Julie Ward MEP to arrive an hour later and then travel to Srebrenica. They will probably arrive at the same time as the bus.
Food whilst you are in Srebrenica
There are a small number of restaurants in Srebrenica and we will be eating in them all regularly. It is most important you go to the youth centre if you are unsure where you will be eating. We are considering giving each apartment a schedule of where everyone is eating both at lunch and dinner. We also hope there will be barbecues and picnics. There are a lot of us so please be patient. Everywhere will have vegetarian choices. At this time of year there will be plenty of home grown vegetables and salad. You will not be expected to eat in the same restaurant all the time and we also might provide simple lunches at the youth centre.
Those in the hotel and the Music House (Setubal) and Anese’s House (Diverse City) can have breakfast in their houses which will be made for them – do request things you like to eat within reason of what’s available. There will also be breakfast served in the Youth Centre from 08.00 for those in apartments who want to come and join others. This will be bread, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, fruit, yoghourt, muesli, local honey etc., if you would like to arrange to have breakfast in your own apartments then you can go to the shops and organise this for yourselves at any point. Cash will be available in the Youth Centre but you must ensure you provide all the receipts for the money spent.
There is also a kebab shop and the supermarket has a restaurant on the top floor that does pizzas, see George’s comments below and sandwiches (flatbreads with a variety of fillings.) We will see if we can get some local baking done for cakes and biscuits for the coffee and tea breaks.
If you are over 18 and choose to drink alcohol this isn’t paid for by the project and this includes at the hotel. See George’s comments below.
All the restaurants, bars and shops will know the exchange rate so you can be comfortable that when you pay in Euros and receive change in KM that you are not being ripped off.
The supermarket and market are relatively well stocked but cosmetic products are poor quality. There is an Apoteka (chemist) but again, anything you think you might need, take with you.
Bars and restaurants are fairly cheap, and they close at 11pm Sunday to Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday. This is enforced strictly…with the exception of the odd late licence for parties.
The food is excellent with much of it local and organic. Very little is imported so you will eat what is seasonal for the entire time you’re there, don’t expect Indian, Chinese or any such other flavour…pizzas are sold in the restaurant above the supermarket, nice as they are I wouldn’t take our Italian friends there for dinner!
Srebrenica is a small town of a few thousand people so shops generally shut at 5ish, earlier on Sundays if they open at all.
If you’re interested in purchasing souvenirs of local crafts etc then it’s worth asking locals as they’re not always sold in shops. Many of your landladies make beautiful hats, socks, tablecloths, etc., and their craft work is of good quality and they are very reasonable.
There is also a post office (there is no word for queue in Serbo-Croatian or Bosnian…or whatever one cares to call their language…I refer to it as their/your language…always the pacifist!) at the entrance to the town near to the petrol station. Expect English to be spoken in most bars, but few restaurants, shops or the aforementioned banks, hospital, Police station or post office.
I don’t think there is a gym and road-running is not recommended with the hilly landscape, but there is a football pitch where 5ish-a-side is often played and you’ll be very welcome to join in. Tennis and basketball can also be played there.
The Outside World
WIFI is becoming more common every month, I understand that the Youth Centre (our base for the project) will have high speed internet.
I’ve struggled to get UK sim cards to work well there so purchasing a local network sim for ease of contact with others during the trip might be advisable. A 5KM card will essentially get you a similar deal to a £10 sim card in the UK.
Whilst most locals have rarely been outside former Yugoslavian countries they are very well cultured, mostly through the internet. They watch the same television and films, listen to the same music (they introduced me to punk music) and read the same news/public opinion online. They’re confident and well-educated people, and intense friendships are formed quickly. As strong people, they ensure that you rise and fall at the feet of your opinions so be confident and bold when confronted about yours.
It’s mostly the young who speak English, and many speak very well. Learning a few words in their language will impress and endear them…they’ll enjoy telling you all how little I learnt.
Culture and everyday life is not that different from other European countries. There are some differences though. One of the first thing you will notice is that everyone are more relaxed about commitments and work. People being late is not a rare thing to happen. Despite many years of working with foreigners Bosnians still don't have a habit of speaking English even when they are able to. People in Bosnia take their religion seriously so don't start those kinds of discussions if you are not with someone you think is intelectual and open-minded enough to do so. People won't get so offended but you can find yourself in a long debate. We eat a lot of bread and a lot meat. Of course, vegetarian meals will be provided. Usually people take off their shoes when inside a house. Pay attention to that when entering the place you will be accommodated to see whether people enter the house with their shoes on. Coffee is so essential, and even though it is easy to find espresso local prefer Turkish coffee. Muslims population, of course, usually don't eat pork. When being in the house don't be surprised if locals want to chat with you and offer you food, coffee and rakija (local strong drink); it is their way of showing hospitality. Foreigners often mark as a proud of their past.
Address of the local health center is Marsala Tita nn. It is about 500m distance from the town's center. There are doctors there at all times. They also have ambulance cars and bigger hospitals located in Zvornik and Tuzla. The phone number of the health center is +38756440202 and the emergency ambulance number is 124. Three of the young women on the project have done some nursing training to certificate level.
Phone reception is most of the times good. We will send a document with landline phone numbers of all the homes. Still there are no worries since a major emergency needs to happen in order for the mobile reception to be down. Wi-fi is available. in many places throughout the town and is free to use (with passwords provided, that not being a problem).
We have two vehicles at our disposal, a 9 seater Mini bus and a 5 seater car. This is to help those who move with difficulty, or to help Robert with film equipment or to buy shopping in vast quantities or to take wooden planks and tools up to Hunters Lodge. Unless you go to Bratunac everything is in easy walking distance….except those who need a lift up the hill to the hotel at the end of a long day.
And that brings me neatly onto the war during the nineties. It’ll undoubtedly come up in conversation but allow a Bosnian (or Nigel!) to start it. It’s an important and sensitive subject, and also very interesting. It is, somewhat sadly, the catalyst for our presence there.
The best thing you can do is read up a little and then listen. Form your own opinion as you decipher fact from fiction, and always be prepared to change that opinion as new information comes to light. In 3 years I think I started to know less as I went on. Every new piece of information undermined the validity of the last, meaning I know a lot that isn’t true but not a lot that is!
The most un-biased book is ‘Bosnia: A Short History’ by Noel Malcolm. The Bradt travel guide is also worth purchasing (I’ll bring my copy if you want to peruse it during the project)
For those with great literary stamina digest ‘A Bridge On The River Drina’ and ‘Death And The Dervish’…probably the two most hallowed piece of Bosnia literature.
Personal accounts of Bosnia during the war which really influenced me during my time there and still are ‘Fools Rush In’ and ‘My War Gone By I Miss It So’.
Films; anything by Emir Kusturica is like a cinematic slap in the face of Balkan culture. Read up on the questionable man, but do see ‘Black Cat, White Cat’ or ‘Underground’. ‘Rane’ is a brilliant Serbian film, like the lovechild of Richard Curtis and Quentin Tarantino. ‘Pretty Village, Pretty Flame’ is not only a great film but provides a glimpse of the insanity of their war.
Music I love from the region includes Sarlo Akrobata (great new wave/punk scene in the eighties) and some Sevdah (traditional folk music from the Ottoman period). Ekaterina Velika are a really important band from the nineties and Dubioza Kolectiv fly the flag these days. The locals will love to initiate you to their favourite artists so I’ll leave that joy for them…just remember to ask.
If you want to practice then there is a Catholic church, a mosque and an Orthordox church in the town, representing the three ethinc/religious groups in similar style to the health warning on a packet if cigarettes which is written in their three almost identical languages.
The Catholic church is very hard to find…the other two are not!
The Mosque calls to prayer 5 times a day in pattern with the sun, so the early morning call wakes the cockerel.
Our accommodation will vary but generally the standard is decent. Take a towel as we’ll probably visit Rajska Plaza (Paradise Beach) on the Drina one day.
Electricity is the normal continental European socket.
Water can, in most places, be drunk from the tap but it is very cheap from the supermarket so I would recommend buying a few bottles there instead and take water in bottles at restaurants and bars.
The road up to the old Spa is a lovely walk, although a bit tricky for wheelchairs (Eilis we should look at this). Do not drink the water from the medicinal springs…it is full of iron and other minerals so will rot your teeth and turn them orange. Instead, splash on your face to gain an eternal, youthful complexion. The old ladies who make the pilgrimage daily are testament to that!
The locals will love to educate you on their country so be inquisitive. Their history is much richer than just the last twenty years so explore further back in time. I am always keen to pass on the knowledge I gained or can always find someone who knows more than me so please also feel free to direct any questions or thoughts my way, by email or if before the trip call me on my mobile (07841 346 547) if there are things you want to talk about.
Street crime is almost non-existent and the majority of locals are incredibly hospitable, as all Yugoslavs are, so relax and enjoy yourself. It’s a wonderful country and will no doubt be a wonderful project for us all to be involved with.
The Youth Centre is right in the middle of town and will be your central information point. Everyone there to help will speak English. A first aid box will be there and we have a short list of first aiders amongst the group.
There will be one person appointed each day to be responsible for care of the group whose job will be to oversee the whole process and keep an eye out for all of us. All partners will take it in turns to appoint a youth worker/facilitator who will share this role with a youth leader.
For British people, they should bring their European chargers and adapters. We have electricity and water is good to drink. Air is extremely clean so people with bronchitis and asthma may experience problems. Temperatures in August can get over 30 degrees Celsius. It does get chilly in the nights.
Taxi prices: to Bratunac is 2,5 KM (Bosnian marks) per person, 2 KM to Potocari (the place where the Memorial is set up)
Coffee: 1KM everywhere in Bratunac and Srebrenica
Beer and other beverage: 2KM
Local supermarket sells most of the things you may need. They also have European and overseas brands.
Exchange rate is 1,95KM=1€ and is fixed.
Things to bring:
- A small torch
- Good walking shoes
- Any medicine you take/may need
- A towel
- European electrical adaptor
- Sun cream
- Sun hat
- Something warm to wear in the evening – a jumper or cardigan
- A light raincoat
- Euros/Currency for using or exchanging
- Snacks/food for your journey out