Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb

I didn’t meet that many people who had been to Zagreb, Croatia before I visited, but everyone who had been suggested I go to one place: The Museum of Broken Relationships. Well, with a name like that, of course I had to check it out.

Museum of Broken Relationships

Museum of Broken Relationships

The museum started as a traveling show, for which the founders asked people to donate something that symbolized their ended relationship as a means of coping with that end. The founders, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, see submitting to the museum almost as a ritual, like a marriage or funeral, that can formally recognize the end of something once vital to one’s life.

One of the first displays I encountered

One of the first displays I encountered

Great imagery

Great imagery

The rooms were labeled with themes, like “Rage and Anger,” although on the whole, I didn’t find the themes that useful a division. The stories are interesting enough on their own, and there’s too much overlap in the end of a relationship among rage and heartbreak and loss to divide it all up into rooms. Maybe the only theme I would’ve taken care to separate items into would be “Death,” because it’s one thing to read about how two lovers broke up, and quite another to read about the tragic circumstances of a loved one’s death. I’d separate those out, to reduce the emotional whiplash.

Different kinds of relationships

Different kinds of relationships

The museum displays about 15% of its collection; they accept any donation (except things that are racially, religiously, sexually, or ethnically offensive), and they only have so much room. I imagine the turnover is pretty good, so that you could visit every year and see almost a whole new exhibit every time. They don’t turn donations away, as they really seem to want to be a physical place for people to locate their pain from a broken relationship.

Different goals for donating

Different goals for donating

They also don’t change the written story submission at all; they encourage people to submit in their native language, and they employ translators to do their best in changing it into English (the language of the museum). They accept multiple objects, tiny objects, large objects. They let the donor decide what’s being displayed and how it’s being talked about, and it seems to me that in doing so, they’re radically addressing what it means to be a museum at all, and what it means to curate one.

There were a lot of stuffed animals

There were a lot of stuffed animals

zagreb croatia museum

It was as fascinating and emotional as I’d been promised it would be, so I’ll pass on what other travelers told me: if you’re going to Zagreb, go to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

They Only Come Out at Night in Zadar

Last June, I stretched out my time in Croatia from four days to fourteen, because there was so much to see and do: Dubrovnik, Split, Sibenik, Krka… After days of amazing cultural and natural sites, I got to Zadar and flipped to the party hostel schedule. Zadar was my last coastal stop before heading inland to the fantastic Plitvice Lakes, and I intended to make the most of my time on the sea. So I slept in late in the mornings, went to the saltwater pool in the afternoons, listened to the sea organ at sunset, and danced on the sun salutation at night.

Disco lights by the seaside

Disco lights by the seaside

No big deal, I just live on Karma Street

No big deal, I just live on Karma Street

The saltwater pool was the first of its kind I’d seen. It was literally a pool built around a part of the sea, with bleachers along the shore, and an Olympic-height diving board looming over the sea outside the pool. As someone commented before, it’s all the fun of ocean swimming with none of the fear of sharks. When I was at the pool with a few people from the hostel, one of the guys revealed that he hadn’t been swimming in ten years, but now he was going to go try the high dive. The rest of us watched with bated breath as he climbed the stairs, paced the board a couple times, and then jumped right in. Impressive!

The saltwater pool

The saltwater pool

Like everywhere else in Croatia, Zadar has several historically important sites, and I kept intending to visit them, but I stayed at a hostel outside of town, and during the two or three days I stayed there, I somehow never made it to the city center before sunset. I’m sure on another trip, I’ll check out the church and cobblestone streets.

Some of the historically significant sights I never saw in daylight

Some of the historically significant sights I never saw in daylight

This time, I danced in clubs until the music got too unbearable, then I danced on the sun salutation to the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore and the mournful song of the sea organ. The sea organ consists of holes cut into the concrete of the boardwalk, and tubes underneath, which are played by the waves lapping against them and the wind whistling through them. Different tones come from the length of the pipes and the height of the waves. I listened to the random notes for nearly an hour, mesmerized by the repetition and slight variation.

The sea organ

The sea organ

The sun salutation art installation uses solar cells to soak up the sun during the day, and then lights up a giant glass display starting in the evening and going well into the night, depending on how much sun it took in over the day. The lights change colors in what appear to be random patterns–sometimes a block of red, then purple, then all the colors blinking on and off at once. It’s hard to see at sunset, because everyone crowds around, but it’s a different story later at night, as the lights twinkle well past four in the morning.

The sun salutation installation at three in the morning

The sun salutation installation at three in the morning

Here’s a video of the sea organ. Enjoy the soothing whistling sounds.

 

A Gastronomic Indulgence in Lima

Bienvenida, señora. Welcome to Astrid & Gastón, the flagship restaurant of Lima’s most famous chef, Gastón Acurio, and one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. We’ve recently moved to this hacienda in the wealthy San Isidro district, and we now offer cooking classes, a room for the tasting menu, a bar area for a la carte dining, and even a vegetable garden that children can access to learn about food and the environment. Right this way.

I even like the clean, elegant font they use

Ignore the weird spray paint effect, and you have a clean, elegant font that matches the rest of the restaurant

Here are some starters of bread and olive oil, as well as nuts encrusted in cumin and other spices. We’re sure you’ll like–oh, you’ve eaten them all. You did like them. Now our sommelier will help you choose a wine. You’re embarrassed to say that you want to eat fish but you prefer a red wine? That’s fine, how about this crisp red wine from Argentina.

Starters and an Argentinian wine

Starters and an Argentinian wine

Cumin-encrusted nuts

Cumin-encrusted nuts

Now, for your first course, may we recommend a cold dish. Try our deconstructed causa, which is a mashed local potato dish with egg, a chili called aji amarillo, and lime juice; we’ve also added raw fish and onions, which makes it like a combined ceviche and causa dish. Ah, you find it absolutely delicious, all the textures and flavors coming together in just the right way, and now you want to try ceviche all along the coast, excellent.

whatsisname

Fancy causa

Here’s your second course, a warm dish. Just to mention that it’s a little spicy–uh oh, what’s that look on your face? It’s too spicy? Your mouth is about to explode and you can’t possibly finish this expensive dish? Oh dear, I’m so sorry I didn’t warn you when you ordered, that’s fine, we’ll take this away. Here’s my manager, who wants to be sure you’re taken care of. Can we interest you in something else? May I recommend a black quinoa dish (quinoa is a major crop here and in neighboring Bolivia; we are at the forefront of the superfood movement in the Andes)? This particular mix of quinoa and tubers is a house invention. I can see you’re politely not telling me that it’s a little flavorless for you, and a little too much like eating something healthy, but I’ll pretend I didn’t notice. Oh, Americans.

Black quinoa dish

Black quinoa dish

Can I interest you in a dessert? No? Well, then, here’s your bill, when you’re ready. Yes, it’s 150 soles, including a service fee. That’s about $50 in US money. We hope the food and experience have been worth the indulgence. What’s that? With the airy room that somehow didn’t have the echo-y acoustic problems many modern restaurants have, the attentive but not pushy service, the simple and elegant aesthetic, and of course the delicious food, it was worth every penny? We’re pleased to hear it, gracias. Enjoy the rest of your time in Lima, one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.

Light as air dining at lunchtime

Light as air dining at lunchtime

Cathedral of Stone, Temple of Water in Sibenik

Sibenik is famous for two things: its cathedral, and the nearby waterfalls of Krka National Park. Rightfully so, because these things of beauty stand out.

The Krka River

The Krka River

St James' Cathedral

St James’ Cathedral

St. James’ Cathedral is a World Heritage site, as its construction over a period of more than 100 years incorporated different styles and building techniques in a unique way. The only material used was stone from the quarries of the island of Brac, and it was fitted together in a way more similar to shipbuilding or cabinet-making than traditional building construction, which is one of the reasons it’s listed.

A Renaissance exterior

A Renaissance exterior

Also, being built between 1431 and 1555 meant that the cathedral bridged the Gothic and Renaissance styles. There are flourishes around the interior that echo famous cathedrals in other cities, and a baptistry famous for its intricate designs.

The transept

The transept

Cheery church iconography

Cheery church iconography

My favorite part, though, was the frieze around part of the exterior, which was decorated with faces carved in the stone. Stories go that these are the faces of donors to the project, and the unpopular donors are depicted in unflattering statuary.

The baptistry

The baptistry

The baptistry ceiling

The baptistry ceiling

If we don't look at the lion, maybe he won't eat us. Don't look at the lion, man...

If we don’t look at the lion, maybe he won’t eat us. Don’t look at the lion, man…

Krka National Park is lovely. I met some people who didn’t like how accessible it was–they wanted their waterfalls earned through a couple hours of hiking–but the waterfalls aren’t a spectacular reveal here, so I don’t see the point. The park consists of a blue-green river flowing over little ridges, small changes in gradation, one after another, so it’s more like collections of tiered falls separated by expanses of river. The water flows at a good rate, so by the time it reaches the lower falls, which are actually a decent height at 47 meters tall, it’s rushing over and splashing down magnificently.

Ribbit

Ribbit

The lower falls

The lower falls

It only took fifteen minutes of following this guy to get this shot

It only took fifteen minutes of following this guy to get this shot

I visited the park with a young French woman I met at my hostel. We walked along the boardwalks trying to photograph bright green frogs and iridescent dragonflies, stopped for lunch at the bottom of the lower falls, and then decided that despite the slight chill in the air, we’d brave going in. It was cold but fun, and we got a workout in walking against the current.

krka sibenik

Overlooking Sibenik

Overlooking Sibenik

Laure and I doing our best to look glamorous and not fall over

Laure and I doing our best to look glamorous and not fall over