Elvis may have crooned about the Heartbreak Hotel, but Croatia’s capital has the real thing (minus the overnight stays.) Swap Lonely Street for Ćirilometodska in Zagreb and uncover the strange situation that is the Museum of Broken Relationships.
I stumbled through its doors, years ago, as part of my #IronRoute series from Istanbul to Berlin, zig-zagging back and forth across the former Iron Curtain.
Broken Relationships didn’t feature in the Cold War, Hot City theme and so the place never made it into my original write up.
But the title drew me in. And curiosity fuelled my fast paced stride through its contents and themes.
It’s a rare person whose heart has never been broken. And, perhaps if we extend the idea of broken relationships beyond the romantic, it may even be a sign of trouble to have no cracked pieces in your heart, nor scars come the end of your time. Perhaps in the same way that medics were told “if you haven’t made any mistakes, you’re not treating enough patients,” if you’ve never had your heart broken, you haven’t loved enough.
That thought aside, the museum itself tries to simplify the “it’s complicated” ness of the post-Facebook world by sticking to romantic affairs.
I’m not sure quite what I expected, or even whether I had any expectations at all.
Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect.
Each exhibit, crowd-sourced of course, is given the same reverence you’d expect of the finest works of art.
Brightly lit, softly lit. Hushed galleries. Printed exposition.
This is art made from everyday objects, with captions that range from the poetic to the absurd.
Some tales reminded me of my youth, of a schoolday crush.
Others tended to run more towards obsession, insanity, instability.
“Isn’t that was love is?” said the curator when I answered honestly when he asked me what I thought of this place.
Instinctively, I don’t think that it is.
But I’ve never been sure quite how to go about defining love – like many a philosopher and glittery-trousered rock star before me.
But while I left wondering about love and the remnants of relationships I had scattered around the globe, I did leave knowing one thing.
I’d never say yes to a date with this curator.
Nor submit my personal items to their display.