Croatia is famous for many things. Its Gothic Renaissance cathedrals and Soviet Era landmarks, its picturesque old towns. And, as of late, its sense of humour when it comes to museums.
While Covid-19 has hindered a lot of travel plans, we hope our travel content can continue to provide you with inspiration for your future journeys—so when this does pass, you’ll be ready to get back out into the world.
Of course, Croatia offers many conventional museums – like Dubrovnik’s Maritime or Archaeological Museums. But a new breed of quirkier institutions has popped up over the past couple of years, focusing on alternative aspects of the human experience. Namely hangovers, romance and breakups.
We spoke to the people behind these three endeavours to help us better understand Croatia’s penchant for the peculiar.
This museum, which opened in late 2019 on the site of an old liquor store in Zagreb, is structured like ‘a way of returning drunk home after a night out’. The idea came after Rino Duboković, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, was exchanging drunken stories with friends. He realised that having tangible reminders of our drunken escapades could be both hilarious and illuminating.
“Most people have been drunk in their lives, so they know what a hangover feels like,” says Duboković. “They have stories, as well as physical objects, connected to that experience. So we decided to create a place where all these stories and objects from people’s drunk nights could coexist.”
Their website has a form where you can submit your own hangover stories and become a part of the exhibition. But lighthearted as it is, the museum is also conscious when it comes to the side effects of alcohol consumption.
“We knew we had to add an educational part to it,” Duboković explains. He created a dark room to raise awareness to ‘the sadness behind irresponsible drinking’.
As for the rise of non-traditional museums in Croatia, Duboković sees it as a way to attract a younger generation. “Places like ours, interactive, entertainment museums, are popularising the culture of museum-going,” he says.
Open since 2018, this place near the entrance Dubrovnik’s Old Town has a mission as simple as it is wholesome: to celebrate love, romance and togetherness.
“Our desire was to bring some positive in a world full of negativity,” says Dragan Miskovic, from the museum’s team. So all stories and objects have a feel-good factor. We’re so happy to see people leaving the museum with a big smile on their faces.”
Eight rooms exhibit everything from local histories and legends about love, to romance stories from movies and series filmed in the area (hello, Game of Thrones). The highlights are real love stories of people from all over the world, accompanied by objects that have a sentimental value to them and that were donated to the museum.
For Miskovic, these small things are of equal importance to the human experience as historical exhibits. They’re also what make Croatia’s quirky museums so appealing to so many people.
“Life is full of little things we don’t even notice, some of which can even look banal, but can become a symbol of a certain time or experience,” he says.”We collect the things that are a symbol of unity, of future love and happiness.”
This museum started out as an art exhibition in 2016 and was turned into a book in 2017. Co-founders and ex couple Olinka and Dražen were mid breakup when they came up with the idea.
“The moments they lived together remained present in the banal, everyday objects that were lurking in every corner of the house, as silent witnesses to their separation,” says the museum’s collection manager Charlotte Fuentes.
The couple collected these painful items, along with items from friends who’d also gone through breakups, and made them into an art installation. This evolved into the Museum of Broken Relationships, which now comprises more than 203 everyday items from across the globe.
According to Fuentes, this idea opened new doors to what could constitute a museum: “With tourism flourishing in Croatia, new museum concepts are being created. In my opinion, as long as they are honest, they will have the power to gather and connect people.”
But Fuentes doesn’t see this new generation of museums antagonising the old. “Museums are the treasures of our culture,” she says. “Like time machines, they are the possibility to show you the past, experience the present, and reflect on the future.”