Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Zagreb (Croatia)

The former Yugoslavia had been a vibrant holiday destination in southern Europe. Years after the collapse of communism and civil wars, the tourism industry is booming again. The region, as a delightful plan to go leisurely along the Adriatic, had made our short list of where to spend our gloriously long summer vacations in Spain. The American move has dictated a far more truncated version.  

We had intended to get off our flight to Zagreb and head overland straight for Slovenia, but the airport shuttle and train schedules did not agree with that plan. Stowing our packs in the main train station was amusing as a couple of older Indian ladies in socks and sandals and with fanny packs around their waists evidently took us for experts and peppered us with questions about it. Killing time before the next train did allow us to walk around quite a bit of the Lower Town and Upper Town of Croatia's capital. St. Mark's Church gets top marks for fanciest roof with the medieval coats of arms of Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, and Zagreb worked in elaborate tiles.

We were particularly curious about the award-winning Museum of Broken Relationships, which started as an exhibit before expanding into full-blown museum. Contributors submit art, mementos, and stories about their broken relationships. It's a theme people the world over can relate to: the ultimate breakup mix tape. Pieces dedicated to ephemeral first crushes, the crash and burn of passionate romances, and the slow crumbling of long-term marriages all feature. The tone ranges from lighthearted humor to disturbing and tragic. There's the "toaster of vindication," a mundane appliance stolen in a final passive aggressive act by a man moving out of their shared apartment: "How're you going to toast anything now?" ... A woman who'd helped her addicted lover stay clean for months shared a home drug testing kit showing a devastating result of positive  ... One stiletto from a dominatrix prostitute reuniting unexpectedly with her first love as a john. Not all of the submissions were romantic or sexual in nature. A whole room was dedicated to broken relationships with parents, from separations both natural (time, distance, absence) and unexpected (divorce, death, even suicide). Reading these stories of heartbreak could have so easily felt voyeuristic, but somehow, the museum strikes the right balance. Visitors are witnesses to the pain and can empathize with them, and contributors get cathartic release, freeing themselves from the hold these love tokens and memories have over them. 

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