Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Revisiting the Museum of Broken Relationships

My social media have been a flurry of engagements, marriage proposals, and weddings, I was reminded that Valentine's Day is just around the corner. 

I'm not anti-Valentine's, but it certainly is not a red-letter occasion in my calendar. During my younger dizzyingly in love days, buying into this very commercial lovapalooza was brought about by keeping up with what the rest of the world was into. 

I still believe in love, but not the fluffy, cotton-candy, sickeningly maudlin type any more. 

"Love to me, tastes more like licorice now: still sweet but with an aftertaste of fennel --not for everyone, but fancied by some."

So while most people will be loved up on the 14th of Feb, I'll be in the cinema with my girlfriends to see 'Fifty Shades of Grey' for a very good laugh, and instead of posting love quotes by Alain de Botton, I'm revisiting an old post from two years ago which is an anticlimax to the happy occasion we're all supposed to be celebrating.

Where do broken hearts go?


Or the remnants left by its trail?

When a relationship regretfully ends, the natural reaction is not to see a physical reminder of the time we spent with that special someone. Memories are already a handful to contend with, and it is human nature to avoid anything that further inflicts pain.

Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić didn't subscribe to that all-too familiar couple resolution of getting rid of items shared together or given to each other during the course of the relationship. Perhaps because theirs was an amicable separation, the sentimental value of everything didn't feel like a dagger deliberately plunged into them, whether out of rage or depth of despair. While sifting through the household items and gifts to be divided between them, the two joked about housing them in a museum. 
Turned out it wasn't a bad idea at all. In 2006, the first collection was shown to the public, together with donations from friends' break-up oddments. 

Nine years on, the Museum has won the Kenneth Hudson Award for the most innovative museum in Europe in 2011, has a permanent location in the baroque Kulmer palace, partners with exhibitors in other countries, now has a souvenir shop that sells shirts with the affirmation 'I Love Break-Ups' and bookmarks that advise you to 'Turn Over A New Leaf', and a Brokenships Café that... "gives you a chance to pull yourself together after an emotional whirlwind caused by the exhibition, in a quiet and pleasant atmosphere accompanied by the sounds of good music."


Tagged as one of the world's Top 10 Weirdest Museums (Lyz Pfister for TravelNerd, 19 April 2013) together with the likes of New Delhi's International Museum of Toilets; Iceland's Phallological Museum; Berlin's Currywurst Museum; and Minnesota's Spam (yes, the tinned ham) Museum, the Museum of Broken Relationships offers asylum to odds and ends of once considered objects of affection. 

"We have rituals for other important phases in our lives; donating a token of an old love in a way, is a celebration to purge one's self of a woebegone romantic past." 

The location, duration of the relationship, and the story behind the item encapsulate the lovers' tale.

A Display of Broken Dreams

 A wedding dress, 1994-1997, Berlin, Germany

The woman writes about wearing this dress on their wedding day on 20 August 1994 in Greece. 800 guests witnessed the ceremony and a radio station had a special coverage of the occasion.They married young, just over 20. He wanted children. Lots of them. The sooner the better. She wanted to wait after finishing their studies. Youth matched with a conflicting vision was the combination that made them drift apart. Relationships are never simple as you see it from the outside. They eventually separated. She moved back to and settled in Germany where she finally started a family. Life doesn't hesitate when the time is right.

A glass horse, 1982-1997, Maribor, Slovenia

In a closet, tucked inside a cash box with her wedding ring, the wife recalls that day in Murano, Venice. After some cakes at Café Gondoliere, the couple made a quick decision to visit the glass workshops of Murano. An artist was sculpting a beautiful glass horse and out of sheer admiration, she exclaimed she'd be happy to have it. It was a long walk back to their hotel. Pure bliss meant only a few words were exchanged between them. Before reaching the hotel, the husband kissed her and handed her a small package. He said, "Darling, I love you. I'll never stop loving you. You are my life." She opened the package and inside was the glass horse. 20 years on, they divorced. He fell out of love. 

An ex axe, 1995, Berlin, Germany

 After a three-week business trip, she came home to her lover who dropped the bomb. She was leaving her for someone else she just met four days ago while her partner's away on business. The lover immediately went on holiday for 14 days with her new girlfriend. At sixes and sevens on how to vent her anger, she found herself purchasing an axe. It went down on the furniture her ex-lover left in her apartment. With each day the erstwhile partner was away, she axed a piece of her furniture. When she came back after two weeks to collect her belongings, all that remained of her furniture was neatly arranged in a heap. The jilted lover wanted her to feel loss which she never displayed on the break-up. It was therapeutic.

Underpants, 2003 - 2005, Zagreb, Croatia
  "A size too small...but I didn't mind at all."

A cell phone, 12 July 2003 - 14 April 2004, Zagreb, Croatia
 "It was 300 days too long. He gave me his cell phone so I couldn't call him anymore."

Garterbelts, Spring-Autumn 2003, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

"I never put them on. The relationship might have lasted longer if I had."

A woman from Switzerland speaks of her ex-boyfriend, "He turned out to be as cheap and shabby as his presents." Next to the label is an unopened packet containing a candy G-string (source: 'That Was Then', The Economist, 25 November 2010).


 "Doesn't work", a donor says of a tin sold as "Love Incense". (source: Display of Affection by Andrew Mueller, The Guardian, 12 February 2011)

A broad-bean heater, shaving kit, a flashing dog collar, a tear container, a wedding album. The museum is a very eclectic collection of bric-a-brac that speaks volumes of personal stories from funny and hilarious to poignant and heart-wrenching. As one Trip Advisor reviewer puts his visit into perspective, the Museum of Broken Relationships is a " for laughs and reflections."

Can't get any better than that.

I have been to Croatia but not to Zagreb. One day I'll pay a visit to the museum, but only for a visit, and hopefully not to leave something behind.

How about you? Still keeping something worth donating to the museum? 

Ćirilometodska 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
 +385 1 4851 021

Credits: all photos except those from specified sources are from; texts are based on the write-ups from the same website.


  1. Sounds like a very interesting museum! I would visit it too if given the chance. Not sure why it's one of the weirdest museums... since broken relationships are everywhere around us.

  2. Would love to see this, looks really interesting. I think it must be therapeutic for them to leave these things for others to see and connect with. I hope you have a great weekend :) xx

  3. What a great and unique museum, very innovative, indeed. I am not anti-valentine's day, as it's not an elaborate day for us, but I still enjoy it. Other occasions and holidays are commercialised too, so I think it's whatever you wish to do, be it nothing or something with your girlfriends, husband, or boyfriend to make it special.

  4. Fantastic! I'd love to visit this museum one day. x


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