On Tour With the 'Butcher of Bosnia'

He is charged with war crimes and genocide, but that's not enough to dissuade tourists eager to see how former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic managed to live in hiding for 13 years.

Without the mountains of Slovenia or Bosnia nor the stunning coastline of Croatia or Montenegro, Serbian travel agencies have to live on their wits. One agency now offers tourists the chance to follow in the footsteps of Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who was arrested in Belgrade in July, 13 years after he was indicted for war crimes by the U.N. tribunal in the Hague.

Karadzic was for years rumored to be living in remote monasteries in the mountains of Bosnia, but the truth was as bizarre as it was humdrum. He had simply reinvented himself to become an alternative health guru selling cures for impotence -- right in Belgrade.

The man who presided over the brutal 3½ year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo disguised himself by growing a long white beard, wearing glasses the size of saucers and tying his long hair in a topknot.

He held lectures on spirituality, wrote for a magazine, traveled, acquired a girlfriend and lived a life that was a world away from what one would expect from a man who was a wanted fugitive.

For $10, tourists can visit the spots where he did it all.

Unassuming, Unappealing Neighborhood

Vekol Tours offers groups a tour of Karadzic's favorite places. It begins in new Belgrade, an unappealing sprawl of Socialist-era apartment blocks, across the river from the old part of the city.

In what is called simply Block 45, on the Jurija Gagarina street Karadzic, he lived under the assumed identity of Dr. Dragan David Dabic. Graffiti on the walls now proclaims it as "Radovan Karadzic Street," but the unassuming location was not nearly as conspicuous while he was living there.

"I've read so much about this, and I just could not comprehend how the Serbs couldn't catch a guy like that. After seeing the place, I can understand it better," said Bettina, 61, from Germany.

Guides point out where Karadzic lived and the places he went in Block 45 but are forbidden from making any comment that might be construed as politically motivated.

"We don't want to express any political opinions," said Dana Petrovic, 25, one of the guides who conducts the tour in English. "It is a completely apolitical program."

There are 15 people on each so-called Pop-Art Radovan Tour, and a Sunday group endured frigid temperatures and steady rain at each stop on the Karadzic tour.

Bakery, Supermarket and 'Bear's Blood'

The unremarkable destinations along the tour's route are a reminder of the low-key life Karadzic assumed to avoid raising any suspicions.

After a stop at his local bakery where "Dr, Dabic" bought and ate his favorite homemade potato pies while observing Serbian Orthodox Church fasts, the tour visits his local supermarket, where he bought groceries and fat-free yogurt.

The excursion stops in at the spot where Karadzic liked to wind down and felt most at home: At the Mad House cafe, the neighborhood pub and local nationalist hangout. Karadzic, it appears, who had changed so many of his habits in his alter ego, still retained one of his old ones: He remained a serious drinker, guzzling many a glass of Serbian "Bear's blood" red wine, which tourists are invited to sample.

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