Standard tour, or a sick visit to a very sick culture?


I was paging through my Telegraph, noticed a full page advert for a holiday based around six cities in the Balkans without really pausing: then stopped short, simply astounded at what was being advertised as ‘A fascinating insight’ by virtue of a walk through the infamous Sarajevo tunnel’, as part of a ‘discounted tour’ by Saga. The advert, in the smaller print, also states that a Saga Tour Manager will be available!

I wonder whether the Tour Manager will be explaining that, for the bargain price of £1,700, the tourists will be given an insight into the deadly internecine blood feud which was the source of the bloodiest ethnic-based civil war in decades! I wonder whether the Tour Manager will be authorised to give out rebates for the tourists who are sickened by the tales of genocide and savagery which was the hallmark of all four sides of this terrible conflict? I wonder if the Tour Manager is from one of the ethnic and religious groupings which started this grab for power, for land, for the sheer thrill of peering over a telescopic sight fixed to a high-powered sniper rifle at a panic-stricken mob fleeing from a mortar explosion specifically targeted to make those same panicked people run straight into the target sights of those pitiless snipers, as they perched in their camouflaged bases?

I wonder if the Saga Group, whose marketing is supposed to be aimed at the older generation, actually sat down and thought about where their ‘Six Cities’ tour would actually visit. Would they have visited THIS particular website, and then encouraged their future tourists and customers to maybe click on image #2, showing a sniper-eye view of Sarajevo; or perhaps just move forwards to image #3, showing that sniper’s targets in close-up, as they cowered, seeking cover from those commanding heights? Will they search forwards for #4, picturing Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (right) and General Ratko Mladic, butchers and murderers both, as they preened and smiled for the cameras. How’s about a few pages forwards, to see a real dandy image #10; of a tearful boy as he is driven away from his desperate father at the height of the siege? But I reckon that they will hold their search, and maybe get their printers to show image #12, and the exact results of their desire to show all of the mysteries of that great, fun-filled argument over, exactly; nothing! How’s about skipping forwards to image # 32, and maybe ask why there only girls and women in that sprawling encampment.

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The puzzling thought is this: why would people who should know all about the massacre of Srebenica, or the siege of Sarajevo; who suffered under it, who carried it out, and, of course, the end result: want to give any of their hard-earned cash to people who, more often than not, were probably willing participants in this multi-ethnic slaughter? That same sprawling ethnic killing ground which carried on until, finally; the Americans got fed up with the bloodshed, went in and stopped the death rattles, for the time being, at least!

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