A Walk Through The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Stilettos, axes & love notes – Croatia's museum of passing passions is one of a kind.  
Museum of Broken Relationship Zagreb
Exhibits at Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships range from the idiosyncratic to the downright bizarre. Photo: Images-Europa/ Alamy/ Indiapicture

Zagreb’s Upper Town, spread across the Kaptol and Gradec hills, is the city’s historic centre. It is an intricate grid of cobblestoned lanes bordered by medieval buildings, churches, and monuments that include the solemn and graceful St. Catherine’s Church and the colourfully tiled St. Mark’s Church. A short walk from either of these takes you to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

A low, arched entrance leads into the gallery where narrow passageways are lined with exhibits—a toy car, a hat, a winter coat, love notes, a beautiful red gown, even a pair of feathered handcuffs—mounted on pedestals or walls. Each is accompanied by a brief note explaining why the piece mattered to the contributor.

A statue of a garden Drawf

In the “Rage and Fury” section of the museum is a garden dwarf a wife hurled onto the windshield of her husband’s new car on divorce day. Photo: Hrvoje Polan/ Staff/ Getty Images

In 2011, the museum was feted as Europe’s most innovative museum. It is the brainchild of Zagreb sculptor Dražen Grubišic and film producer Olinka Vistica, who joked about exhibiting their personal things when their relationship ended in 2003. Three years later, the joke became reality when they started an exhibition that would travel around the world with similar items collected from friends. According to the creators, “the museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the museum’s collection.” The response to the exhibition was so overwhelming that it finally became a permanent installation in 2010. The collection changes and expands with donations from all over the world.

The exhibits evoke a range of emotions—amusement, surprise, poignancy, sadness, and sometimes, even laughter. Some border on the macabre: a vicious-looking axe, for instance, used by a woman to chop every piece of furniture belonging to her cheating ex-girlfriend, or a suicide note from a mother to her son. A pair of heels, one among many stilettos on display, is a record of unspeakable things the donor’s former lover made her do. A toaster is the only thing that a man was able to salvage from his relationship, and the curatorial description gleefully declares that “she will never be able to toast anything ever again.” My favourite exhibit, however, turned out to be a Wi-Fi router with a pithy note from the contributor: “We didn’t get on.”

Souvenirs sold by the museum

One of the exhibits is an axe once used as an “instrument of therapy” to hack an ex-girlfriend’s furniture. Photo: Miso Lisanin/ Xinhua Press/ Corbis/ Imagelibrary

The museum store sells quirky souvenirs such as a “bad memories eraser” and a zippered pair of pillows that can be separated. The Brokenships Café near the entrance is for aching hearts as well as tired visitors. Aromatic teas and coffees, mulled wine, and lemon and pepper cookies are on the menu(+3851-4851021; brokenships.com/en; Jun 1-Sept 30, 9 a.m.-10.30 p.m., Oct 1-May 31, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; entry Kuna 25/₹255 for adults, Kuna 20/₹204 for children).

Appeared in the November 2014 issue as “Love’s Labour Lost”.

  • Anita Rao Kashi is a freelance travel and food writer based in Bengaluru.

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