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Who here has never had a broken heart?

If you’ve managed to make it through life unscathed by scars from a relationship gone wrong, you’re either living in a bubble or the luckiest person to ever walk the earth.

As humans, we have an uncanny ability to hurt one another. It doesn’t matter if we’re with someone 2 weeks or 20 years, when we fall hard it’s bound to leave a mark.

When I learned about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia I knew I had to see it for myself. I’m a sucker for anything weird, quirky, or unusual. Plus, even though I’m currently happy & angst-free, I’ve had my share of heartbreak.Museum of Broken Relationships Sign

 

I arrived in Zagreb at 5am on a Sunday morning, having taken the midnight bus from Split. Nothing in the city was stirring yet – my favorite time of day – so I took a tram out to Maksimir Park, ditched my backpack behind a tree, and enjoyed a glorious stroll around.

View from Upper Town Zagreb

View from Upper Town

Then I headed to the city center, grabbed a coffee, climbed the streets to Upper Town & waited for the museum to open. It was worth the wait. You might think it would be depressing, but it was anything but.

That Museum of Broken Relationships exists to provide closure that many have never received. It allows anyone with a story to tell to contribute; turning sorrow into art. It acts as a catharsis for broken hearts to let go of something they may have held onto for far too long.

Individuals from around the world donate items that remind them of lost love along with the story that explains the item’s significance.

It seems simplistic when you walk in. With stark white walls and various objects in glass cases, it isn’t much to look at upon first glance. Then you start to read the stories.

From teenagers playing Super Nintendo to a spiraling drug addict to a wartime childhood romance to a mother’s suicide note left to her children, they range from comedic to heart-wrenching.

I spent almost two hours meandering through the plain rooms, absorbing these stories. They come from Serbia, the Philippians, Colorado, China, Croatia, Indiana, Germany, Australia…heartbreak is universal, my friends.

One person donated her wedding dress, red bustles & diamonds. Another, a rubber hamburger with a note saying only, “his dog left more traces behind than he did.”

A toaster labeled ‘The toaster of vindication’ might have been my favorite: “When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?”

One story told of a 13 year old boy who met a girl while being held hostage during the siege of Sarajevo and lent her his favorite cassette tapes. They fell in love. He woke up one day and the girl’s family was gone. He never heard from her again. His letter says he “hopes the music reminded her of something nice and cute in that whole terrible situation.”

Another story tells of a couple with an open relationship that was unbeknownst to their friends and family. When they died in a sudden car accident, the third person in their marriage was left to silently grieve his best friend and the woman he loved.

Someone from Bloomington, Indiana donated a photograph and said “Florida Lake where I skipped school with my boyfriend. The arrow indicates the spot where I first saw a penis in the sunshine.”

Yeah, I totally giggled out loud at the word penis. I have the sense of humor of a 12 year-old.

Tales of first loves, passionate affairs, long-lasting toxic relationships, prostitution, long-distance romances & star-crossed lovers mingle together. They all have one thing in common: the stories are told in a simple, straightforward manner.

Just the facts; no self-pity or melancholy. These are people who are ready to move on. The museum is a tangible display of healing & catharsis.

And it made me think.

Do any of us really have a handle on love? We feel it, we act it, we believe in it. But we have no mastery over it. We fall in love with the wrong people for the right reasons and the right people for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes we fall in love despite our best efforts not to, and sometimes we hold onto something that we stubbornly insist is love even when deep down we know it isn’t meant to be.

We make promises and even vows. We say forever even though we have no real concept of it (I mean, none of us are immortal to the best of my knowledge).

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” – Moulin Rouge/Nature Boy

The truth is that none of us can truly promise forever. (I know, all you married people are disagreeing with me right now, but hear me out.) We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. We don’t know what 20 years down the road is going to look like. Time is fleeting and unpredictable.

But that doesn’t make the love that we have in front of us any less precious.

Maybe it will last a month and sputter out like a flame that burned too bright too fast. Maybe it will sneak up slowly and catch a hold of you for years. Maybe it will last for the rest of your days on this earth. But you don’t know, unless you happen to be omniscient.

I’m one of the lucky ones right now. I have something beautiful and special and incredibly rare. But I can’t say it will last forever. Who knows if there will even be a forever? I am a bit of a risk taker.

The Museum of Broken Relationships made me cherish my own even more than I already did. I thought about all the times I’ve been treated like crap, or been in a toxic situation, or been taken advantage of. And I am sooo grateful to no longer be the kind of person who lets someone treat her like she’s a low priority.

I think the best thing we can do in life is to love as deeply and openly as we can when the opportunity presents itself. And, if it starts to fade, let it go as gently as possible.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Buddha

If you’re ever in Zagreb, don’t miss this unique museum. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and best of all, it will make you remember all the loves of your life.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a bar?

Martinis Sign

Truth.


 

Visit the Museum: Located in the beautiful baroque Kulmer palace in the Upper Town, Zagreb, Croatia

Admission cost: 25 kuna ($4.40)

Time required: 1 – 1.5 hours.

What you need to know: Climb up to the Upper Town (an easy walk from the main square in the city center, but you can take a tram if you’re feeling lazy) and wander around the stone streets. Follow the signs to the museum, and check out the Museum of Naïve Art while you’re in the area. Grab a coffee or something stronger from the bar after you’ve looked through the exhibits. Enjoy!

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. frankaboutcroatia    

    Great post, Mandie! Was really looking forward to read it. Love the Budha’s saying, and that poster for Martinis is a perfect ending to this story. Enjoy Croatia! Let us know if you’d like to share any story about Croatia with our readers.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Frank! I’m sure I could probably come up with something! I’ll shoot you an email. 🙂

  2. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

    Fab! We too loved this place, I always tell people to check it out. It’s one of those really unique places that gets you thinking. I can’t wait to see your guest post for us. I’m excited to know your thoughts on Croatia. Happy travels my love!

    1. Mandie    

      Why thank you, darling! Can my guest post be “How I Went so Over-Budget in Amazing Croatia that I will be Living on Pasta for the Remainder of my Trip”? Or how about “Who has the Best Ice Cream in Split? I Know, Because I Tried all of Them!!” Haha 😉

      1. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey    

        HA! I only just checked back on this now. I’ll pass on the first option. But a post about Best Ice Cream in Split I can take!! I may have to hand our Kuna to everyone reading it though 🙂

  3. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    What an interesting concept for a museum! I would be greatly interested in visiting, if I’m ever in that area. I’m fascinated with stories, and these stories of love gone wrong are ones we can all relate to emotionally, even if not all of us have been in an open relationship in which two members died. It does help put everything into perspective though. Great post! 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Haha there were some totally weird stories that I didn’t even include – like a dominatrix/prostitute running into her childhood love in a sex dungeon. Ummmm, what?? Lol. But yeah, the overall message was that love & loss are the same in any language. 🙂

  4. Adelina // Pack Me To    

    I walked pass this museum but didn’t go inside. Now that I’ve heard so many fascinating reports of visits there, I really wonder what it would have been like to go inside. Next time 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      It was so interesting! I had heard about it from 3 different people so I figured I had to see it – glad I did! Definitely stop in next time. 🙂

  5. realgunners    

    So.. you left your backpack behind a tree and wander off. I suppose that’s by itself, awesome. Is it testament to how safe Zagreb is?
    What a special museum that is, by the way!

    1. Mandie    

      Lol, well it was 5 am on a Sunday and there was NOBODY moving about…maybe not my smartest move but I had all my valuables with me at least.

  6. Mary Calculated Traveller    

    WOW – great article of a very unique museum. I’m a real sap so I know that I would totally break down and cry inside the museum and even though I’ve been married 20+ years as I was reading this I actually started thinking of past loves… When you mentioned the donated wedding dress – I almost lost it!!

    1. Mandie    

      I know! It reminded me of past relationships gone bad and it just made me so thankful to be in a good one. 🙂

  7. Sand In My Suitcase    

    It sounds like a very unusual museum, for sure… With a bar, wonder if anyone has ever met someone there with whom they’ve fallen in love :-). Would be nice to think that some relationships are made there…

  8. Anda    

    What an interesting thing! Never thought there could be such a museum.

    1. Mandie    

      I know, I’m such a sucker for anything out of the ordinary! It’s worth a visit for sure!

  9. Alyssa    

    They’re running this in London right now at the Southbank Centre. It really is an interesting exhibit! I still can’t get the handful of dreadlocks out of my head! haha. Lovely post 🙂

  10. Lydia Marek    

    Any other suggestions for places to visit in Zagreb? Favorite places to eat?? Thanks!!

    Lydia

  11. Raisefrequency    

    I did know that such a museum exits, thank you for sharing your experience visiting the museum of broken hearts. Definitely, everybody or almost everybody have been heartbroken at some point in our lives.

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