Love Lost in the Balkans: Croatia’s Museum of Broken Relationships

Love Lost in the Balkans: Croatia’s Museum of Broken Relationships

MIR’s Private Journeys Specialist Lisa Peterson knows the back roads and corners of so many MIR destinations. Her passion is the Balkans, where she’s studied, lived, and returns every chance she gets. Lisa has a knack for tracking down quirky places in the Balkans; this one’s in Croatia.

MIR's Lisa Peterson in her "home away from home," Croatia <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

MIR’s Lisa Peterson in her “home away from home,” Croatia
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Decorated HeartsI always feel like it’s Valentine’s Day in Zagreb: hearts everywhere! At any given time of the year, all of the souvenir shops proudly display their enormous stock of “licitars,” traditional Croatian heart-shaped honey biscuits that are Zagreb’s town symbol. They’re so popular that UNESCO put them on its “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list in 2010.

Handmade licitar cookies, designated a "UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage" <br>Photo credit: Tomo Jesenicnik, Slovenian Tourist Board

Handmade licitar cookies, designated a “UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage”
Photo credit: Tomo Jesenicnik, Slovenian Tourist Board

In Zagreb, a bouquet of licitar heart-shaped Croatian cookies can trump a bouquet of roses
Photo credit: Goran Pavić

Traditionally, these Zagreb hearts are given as gifts to anyone at all times of the year: business gifts, birthday gifts, gifts for loved ones, gifts for visitors. My Croatian language teacher even gave me one as a graduation gift! And that’s not all. The image of the Zagreb licitar heart is so popular that you can find it printed on everything from pendants, plates, and postcards to t-shirts, coffee mugs, and just about anything else that you can imagine.

Yet, in a city so filled with hearts, there are bound to be a few broken ones. And Zagreb likes to display those, too.

Zagreb's city symbol is a heart. Photo credit: Helen Holter Zagreb's city symbol, a heart <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Broken HeartsBroken hearts are on display at the quirky, must-see  located near more traditional museums like the  Mannequin hands, jewelry, cell phones (maybe a texted break-up?), an axe for the ex and more are on display, remnants of love relationships that didn’t last to see the light of Valentine’s Day.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a few steps away from city hall, where couples marry <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a few steps away from city hall, where couples marry
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

An "axe for the ex" is a popular artifact at this Zagreb museum <br>Photo credit: Ana Opalic, MBR

An “axe for the ex” is a popular artifact at this Zagreb museum
Photo credit: Ana Opalic, MBR

The artist couple who founded the Museum of Broken Relationships didn’t know what to do with their treasured stuffed bunny when they broke up after four years. In 2006, Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić put their creative minds together and made an artwork display of their love leftovers, then started asking for donations. Its popularity grew internationally, and others with broken relationships asked to add to their collection.

(BTW: Although Olinka and Drazen broke up, they have a great working relationship at their new museum.)

Nothing's under the glass in the museum; it's not the objects that are so valuable, but the stories behind them <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Nothing’s under glass in the museum; it’s not the objects that are so valuable, but the stories behind them
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Dolls, teddy bears, and everyday items take on special meaning at Zagreb's Museum of Broken Relationships <br>Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Dolls, teddy bears, and everyday items take on special meaning at Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

Heart to HeartIn its short history, the Museum of Broken Relationships has won the Kenneth Hudson Award for “Most Innovative Museum” in Europe. A popular traveling exhibit made the rounds of Europe, displaying museum highlights: not only the pioneering stuffed bunny that sparked the museum, but also candles, tear-stained letters, keys to one’s heart, wedding dresses, a prosthetic leg that “lasted longer than the relationship,” and remnants of other broken Zagreb hearts that can’t be mentioned here.

On divorce day, this dwarf flew off a gate and hit her soon-to-be ex's new car <br>Photo credit: Ana Opalic, MBR

On divorce day, this dwarf flew off a gate and hit her soon-to-be ex’s new car
Photo credit: Ana Opalic, MBR

Take HeartIn less than a decade, the Museum of Broken Relationships has become popular as a must-see museum for travelers to Zagreb. For newlyweds conveniently tying the knot in City Hall across the street, it’s just a few steps to check out this museum before or after their nuptials. For those recently broken up, the museum can be a place of healing, a place to grab a glass of wine and whine, or a place to donate the remnants of their own shattered relationships.

And for all, Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships is on the bucket list for intrepid travelers, in a Croatian city that displays its heart on its sleeve – as well as on its umbrellas, t-shirts, pendants, plastic bags and mugs.

Zagreb hearts, in this manifestation as refrigerator magnets <br>Photo credit: Goran Pavic

Zagreb hearts, in this manifestation as refrigerator magnets
Photo credit: Goran Pavic

Travel To Croatia with MIRLearn more about MIR tours that travel to Croatia, where you can visit the Museum of Broken Relationships and view Zagreb hearts in spades. You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: Lisa Peterson)

PUBLISHED: May 27, 2014

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  • Please take a look at a big 15 minute video interview with one of the founders of the Museum of broken relationships. Find out all the knocks and crannies about one of the best museum ideas.