There are dozens of museums in the city of Zagreb. When you wander the city streets, you can’t help but pass several within five minutes. The brown signs pointing visitors towards cultural sights are comically stacked up at intersections in the Old Town. So how do you choose? Must one prioritize broken relationships over archaeology? Art over torture?
Fortunately, Joe and I have the luxury of a little more time than the average tourist. We can drop by museums and sites as we have the time and inclination. I’m going to focus on two of them at the moment. At first glance, they seem almost opposites. But when you consider them more closely, you’ll see they’re not all that different.
A blast from the past
Joe discovered the archaeology museum one sunny Sunday after a lovely brunch. We wanted to soak in some culture, and the museum was open for another hour and a half, so we went for it. I expected to breeze through what I thought would be a basic, not particularly great museum of archaeology. Boy, was I wrong.
Each of the three floors was packed full of stunning artifacts, and extensive descriptions of each time period and context were clearly displayed. The museum’s Egyptian collection was particularly beautiful and impressive. Numerous mummies stared out at us from dead, painted-on eyes and long papyrus scrolls lined the walls.
We worked our way from the Paleolithic era up through late Roman times and marveled at the depth and breadth of each exhibit. One of the most surprising parts of the collection was the massive amount of well-preserved metal objects. And many of them survived virtually intact from the 3rd-2nd millennia B.C.E. In addition to the many treasures inside the museum itself, a number more were on display in a lovely garden and café area outside. We had the museum virtually to ourselves – a pity. Even the most skeptical teenager would likely enjoy what was inside.
Artifacts of a different type
Breakups are hard. Many of us have kept mementos left behind by some departed love. But the Museum of Broken Relationships wants you to hand over those items along with their stories. This unusual museum takes the small pieces that remain when people part ways and turns them into art.
As you work your way through the white-walled interior, various objects of all shapes, sizes, and types stand out against the background. A small toy football stands next to a Magic 8 ball. A long, flower-printed dress hangs around the corner from several strands of barbed wire. A list of reasons to stay faces a wireless router. One of my favorites, a colorful caterpillar, was shared by a long-distance couple. Each time they reunited, they cut off one of his legs. They agreed that, when every leg was cut off, they would take the next step in their relationship. Unfortunately for them, he never lost all his legs before they separated.
All of these objects meant something to someone once, but now likely hold more pain than pleasure. So the museum displays them, along with their stories, for the world to see. Objects hail from all over the world, and it’s amazing how familiar and similar some of the stories are.
And so you see – these trinkets, pieces of clothing, books, instruments, and toys are the relics of relationships past. They are the little clues left behind. Just as archaeologists look for clues that tell us about ancient times, so do these artifacts help create context and divulge information about long-gone lives. I would rank this as one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever visited.
In Zagreb, there’s a museum for everyone. And so far, the archaeologist in me is quite satisfied.
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