The Museum of Unfortunate Love in Croatia, Zagreb

Unhappy Love Museum

A unique museum in the Croatian capital where the exhibits are the memorabilia of people who have broken up with their loved ones.

The Museum of Unhappy Love is located in Croatia and was founded by two artists who themselves had experienced a separation. Realizing how hard it can be every day to see things that remind of a former relationship, the young people decided to do with them “creatively”, which is typical of creative people: gather them all in one place, and then ask their friends to bring them anything that could remind of the past. Even before Olinka Vistina and Dresen Grubizik took up the cause thoroughly, their collection was greatly enriched by the things of other people who had parted ways.

All the “exhibits” of the museum are things that once belonged to people who loved each other, symbolizing their love or accompanying a breakup. You can find anything in the place: toys, watches, photos belong to the most common type of things, but in addition to such ordinances in the museum you can see really amazing things. Each item is accompanied by a description of why the item was important to its owner, the story of a relationship breakdown, or some very ironic remark.

For example, a Yugoslav war veteran donated his artificial shin to the museum. After finding himself in the hospital with a severe injury, he met a nurse who brought him back to normal life. Subsequently, the fighter fell in love and created a relationship with this girl, but as it turned out, the prosthesis turned out to be made of a more wearable material than their love.

Also quite atypical was the axe with which the girl had hacked up the furniture in the apartment of her beloved, who had had time to cool down for three weeks and find herself a new love. The tool allowed the girl to take out all her anger on the interior of her negligent girlfriend’s apartment, so that she would have some sense of regret for what she had lost, and then went to a museum.

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There is also a broken scooter, given by a loved one and hurt during a breakup. And there’s the wedding dress, a witness to a rather dramatic story. The bride and groom had a truly grand wedding for eight hundred people, and during their short life together they did not see eye to eye: he wanted to have children as soon as possible, and she wanted to finish her studies. The newlyweds had to separate, but this story has at least one happy ending – the “bride” went back to Germany and now she has another family that fully shares her beliefs and views on life.

Another interesting and even funny exhibit can be considered a coffee machine. As the annotation to it says, the “lover” preferred caffeine to his girlfriend.

According to Olinka, visiting the museum of unhappy love has a positive effect on people who have experienced a breakup. Also, the owners of the museum have an official website where anyone can post a letter or leave a sms with their unhappy story. But people who visit the place fall into several types: those who are going through, directly, a breakup; those who are simply curious; and those who add new items and stories to the museum’s exhibit. As Olinka and Dresen point out, most of the exhibits come from Britain. Does this suggest that this country has the largest number of people with broken hearts? In any case, every potential visitor of the museum wants to belong to the “curious” type, so as not to have to placate themselves with the fact that someone else’s love story turned out to be even more unsuccessful.

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Contrary to the logic of the characters of romantic stories, sometimes the relationship between lovers ends. After that, not only are the shards of broken hearts and unfulfilled hopes left in the ruins of the once strong union, but also many “pieces of evidence” testifying that the two were once happy: photographs, postcards, pretty trinkets, and other mementos of love. Where do they go afterwards, all those little things that make up a romance? We know a thing or two about a few hundred of these things because they ended up in the Museum of Broken Hearts, which opened in Croatia on October 5.

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The museum of broken hearts officially opened in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, back in 2006. That’s when artists Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic decided they’d had enough and broke off their relationship. However, they did not stop their friendship and one day wanted to find a use for all those objects, the existence of which lost its meaning after the lovers broke up.

“Usually people try to get rid of things that remind them of a failed romance – and this is the normal behavior of unhappy lovers. However, we decided to channel this destructive energy in a creative way. We wanted to make something good out of our breakup and overcome the pain with creativity,” – said Olinka.

Vistica and Grubisic put together a small collection of memorabilia and then approached friends whose love boats also crashed and asked them to donate some items to the foundation of the future museum as a reminder of their former happiness. So among the items were love letters, wedding rings, photographs, sex toys, empty bottles of alcoholic beverages drunk on dates, and other thematic artifacts.

When the artists had accumulated enough pieces, they decided to open a small exhibit in downtown Zagreb. The improvised museum, dedicated to a failed relationship, was organized in a metal shipping container and then traveled across Europe in a trailer. Vistica and Grubisic rode around with their traveling exhibit for several years, all the while remembering to add to the collection.

One of the museum's exhibits. Photo from

One of the museum’s exhibits. Photo from

Soon the artists asked the Croatian authorities for help in opening a permanent museum. And so, with the help of officials as well as people with broken hearts, the former lovers managed to get a room for the museum. The grand opening of the exhibit, which now does not need to huddle in a car or a container, took place on Tuesday, October 5.

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By the time the museum of unhappy love opened, Vistica and Grubisic had accumulated about six hundred items, not only manuscripts of poems, plush toys, letters and postcards, a collection that anyone who has experienced the separation of a loved one can boast about. There are also less trivial items in the collection of Croatian artists.

For example, among the exhibits is an axe that was given to the museum by a German lesbian with a broken heart. As it is stated in the description of the exhibit (each item in the museum has its own story, which is written by the now former owner of the thing – cards with a story about the exhibit are installed next to it), the girl bought the axe immediately after parting with her girlfriend.

“I flew to America for three weeks, and when I came back, it turned out that she didn’t want to be with me anymore. We met and she told me, ‘I fell in love with another girl. I’ve only known her for four days, but I’m sure she’ll give me everything you couldn’t give me.’ I kicked her out. She moved in with her new girlfriend and all her furniture stayed at my house. Not knowing what to do with my anger and despair, I went and bought that axe. Every day I destroyed one piece of furniture that reminded me of her. The more splinters there were, the easier it became for me,” says the history of the axe, which became an exhibit at the museum.

Also on display is a coffee machine that the museum received from a woman in Ljubljana. The description of the exhibit says the coffee machine reminded her of her coffee-loving ex-boyfriend. “When he came over, I always made coffee for him. When he finally left, I made coffee for myself in memory of him. It seemed like it would go on indefinitely. To break this vicious circle, I gave the coffee machine to the museum,” said the former owner of the exhibit.

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And visitors to the failed relationship museum can also see several wedding dresses that gave their owners unbearable pain from memories, a yellow Vespa scooter on which two lovers were about to take a romantic trip, a cell phone with a story of loneliness (“He gave me his cell phone so I could no longer call him”), a dough kneading dish and other items that hold memories of heartbreak.

“Prosthesis Surviving Love” from the museum’s collection. Photo from

The centerpiece of the exhibit, however, according to the museum’s founders, is a prosthetic shin, donated to the artists by a veteran of the Croatian War of Independence. The war veteran told the following story about his prosthesis: during the war he lost his leg and was sent to the hospital, where he met a “young, beautiful and ambitious” girl from the Ministry of Defense.

The military man and the Defense Ministry employee began an affair that, unfortunately for the veteran, didn’t last very long. “The prosthesis survived more than our love affair. It was made of more durable material,” the veteran sadly concluded. “I think the prosthesis is the best thing in our collection. The man first lost part of his body and then part of his soul,” Vistica noted.

The museum’s founder believes that visiting the exhibit helps heal the mental wounds of the relationship battles. “I think the exhibit has a therapeutic effect on those who are going through such severe emotional turmoil as a breakup. All of the exhibits kind of speak to the experience and the fact that anything is possible,” Olinka said.

The Museum of Failed Relationships is open in Zagreb from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Of course, because unhappy love doesn’t and can’t have any weekends.

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