The Museum of Broken Relationships | Zagreb, Croatia

We all keep mementos of our past loves, sometimes even unknowingly. The Museum of Broken Relationships collects and preserves these mementos and the memory assigned to them by their previous owners. The Museum of Broken Relationships lies in the historic district of Zagreb’s Upper Town. At one point the museum was a travelling exhibition revolving around the concept of relationships that had gone South. The exhibition toured 25 cities worldwide before settling at it’s permanent location in Zagreb.

In Zagreb there is an array of museums to choose from, but the only one I had on my mind to visit this trip was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Weird, I know. But the name and concept intrigued me and I wasn’t disappointed.

Image Museum in Zagreb

As a veteran of a few failed relationships, I truly appreciated this museum and its contents. It pays homage to failed and lost loves. Many relationships that end badly often result in one or both partners spiraling into self-destructive phases. This museum celebrates love from the good times and bad by offering its donors the opportunity to heal by sharing their failed love story.

Items in this museum vary as much as the love stories they sprung from. Stories and mementos from love lost, broken, betrayed or faded are within the walls of this small museum. Items vary from articles of clothing (such as wedding dresses, coats and shoes) to keys, love letters littered with broken promises and a bike light.

If you ever find yourself in Zagreb (and I suggest you plan to), then stop by the Museum of Broken Relationships, it’s well worth your time. In addition to the museum, you’ll also find a small gift and coffee shop in the same building. There’s free wifi in the coffee shop and cute museum trinkets for sale such as ‘bad memory’ erasers and zippered pillowslips that may be separated to form two matching pillowcases or zipped together to form one large pillowcase.

My top 3 favourite pieces from the museum

While there were more visually stimulating items, I selected my favourite items based on their accompanying stories and it was hard to choose just three.
Image Items from broken relationships
Story accompanying item 1 | Escaping from Sarajevo under fire in a big convoy, we were held hostage for three days when leaving the city. A few days before, I turned 13. In a car next to ours there was Elma, with her mother and some other people, I don’t remember whom. I only remember she was blonde and incredibly cute. I fell in love, with childlike honesty, and confessed it to her with the same honesty in this letter. I had given her some tapes since she forgot to bring her own music along before leaving in a hurry. As I didn’t get the time to give her the letter, because after three days they suddenly freed us and we lost sight of Elma’s car near Travnik, she never got to return my Azra, Bijelo Dugme, EKV, Nirvana and other tapes… Naturally, I never saw her again, although I just hope that the music reminded her of something nice and cute in that whole terrible situation.

Story accompanying item 2 | Well… A relationship very short, but mentally so tough and ‘crazy’ that it brought me to a moment of complete madness… And I cut my hair and I lived without it for a long time and no one loved me… And I was happy.

Story accompanying item 3 | The only thing left of great love was citizenship.

My 3 items

I found the museum rather therapeutic and found myself, more than once, surprised by the emotion stories and items elicited from me. It made me think what items I’ve kept from past relationships.

Item 1 | This blog sprung from a horrible break up, yet I can’t name anything specific at this time which I’ve chosen to keep from that relationship other than photos. I think once I make a more permanent move and unpack I will find other things. All I can think of now are the photos; we spent the bulk of our 20s together and I’ve not had the heart to dispose of those digital images. There’s also our engagement photos. They’re on a disc I purchased from the photographer. I didn’t have any prints made, but I did make a point of buying the digital images. I still haven’t viewed the disc of images, but I’ll get to them someday.

Item 2 | From a love that was either lost or faded (I’ve not yet decided) I’ve kept a drawing I drew of the two of us. It happened so quickly and I was so engrossed in the moments we spent together that we never actually took a picture together. Once returning to my home country, I drew a picture which I titled, ‘Portrait of a cynic and absent-minded professor’. It was not a piece of art, by any means, but it was the only tangible thing I had from that short-lived relationship. I sent him a scanned copy of it and I’d like to think he cherished it as much as I did/do.

Item 3 | It was my first or second week in Greece, August 2005. I went to a small, nearby Greek island and had the most romantic weekend of my life to date with a beautiful Greek man. I didn’t have a phone number yet as I’d just moved to Greece, I didn’t know of Facebook and I didn’t use email for anything other than school at that time (hard to imagine now) – so he wrote his phone number on my map of Athens and I promised to call him once I returned to the mainland. He was going to come and visit me but I never called. I think I was much wiser than I am now. I had a moment of clarity when I realised that I had just experienced the most perfect, romantic weekend of my life (no sex involved) and I didn’t want to ruin it.

What have you kept from your past relationships and international love affairs? Have you found there’s a pattern to the things you keep as a reminder?

Image signature and red lips

12 thoughts on “The Museum of Broken Relationships | Zagreb, Croatia

  1. Morgan on

    I love the Museum of Broken Relationships and once had an extensive collection of similar ephemera, but stopped saving all this stuff after the last broken engagement (my third, all Brits). When the last one took back the ring, he also took my own diamond earrings and tank watch. So I suppose the empty spaces in the jewelry box are the new *objets de souvenir*

    I escaped that split in Split! For months he had told me I was insane to buy property in Dalmatia, but after the break he claimed he was looking to buy over there, too. Thankfully, I think he was bluffing.

    • American Burd

      Yeah, it’s feels weird to part with the pieces we’ve saved from past relationships. I, too, have a broken engagement in my past. When he took the ring back he also took another piece of jewelry… one that meant a lot from me. He also took the box though. I would have loved to keep that, but I guess it’s good that I don’t have anything else to hold onto.

      Split is beautiful. As I’m sure you’ve noticed from my blog, I’ve been staying in Omis. I think investing in property in Dalamatia is a great idea, particularly right now as Croatia has just joined the EU. Good luck with everything and hopefully your ex won’t invest in Dalmatia.

  2. Kate on

    I completely identify with your #3 story. I intentionally gave someone the wrong phone number after one of the most positive romantic experiences I’ve ever had simply because it was a perfect experience, and I knew that there was no way we could/would ever have a relationship. I only wanted to keep that one, amazing evening.

    • American Burd

      Thanks for the comment, Kate! It’s always nice to hear someone is able to identify with a story of mine. I think it’s nice to be able to just preserve that memory in one’s mind. I’ll never be able to look back on that experience with any sadness, anger or regret – and I absolutely love that.

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