Crazy collectors, mad scientists and mushroom experts have all contributed to Zagreb’s rich variety of unusual museums scattered across the city. The most bizarre, yet strangely gripping, is the Museum of Broken Relationships, as personal an exhibition as could be imagined.
The most unusual museum to end all unusual museums, this highly praised and oft-visited attraction is most certainly original. Initially created as an art installation by a former couple in the process of splitting up, the Museum of Broken Relationships takes the concept one step further by displaying the bizarre items people discard after a relationship, or liaison, ends. Love, anger, sadness and regret are the main dynamics here, although the exhibition also deals with the more random meaning of relationships rather than coupledom.
Although not unusual in itself, except in the sheer numbers of rocks, fossils and stuffed animals it houses, the Croatian Natural History Museum is a curiosity in that it is housed where Duke Várkony set up the first theatre in the city in 1797. The Hungarian nobleman would be impressed to see his former residence today put to good use by the Croatian Academy of Sciences, which has collated 100,000 artefacts to illustrate the range of fauna, minerals and flora from around the region.
Museum of Illusions | Courtesy of Museum of Illusions
The sister operation to the main branch in Zadar, the Museum of Illusions offers some 70 oddities, trompes l’oeil and holograms. The anti-gravity room is always popular, as is the Ames room whose swirly design makes the person next to you appear huge or tiny. And it’s so tempting to keep peering into the bottomless pit in case there’s a slight chance it might just bottom out somewhere.
Any attraction involving eccentric inventor and original mad scientist Nikola Tesla would be unusual enough, but the Technical Museum also has plenty of transport-related attractions to keep visitors of all ages happy. Vintage aircraft, original antique trams and steam trains fill much of this large space, along with a mock of Tesla’s study and display cases lined with strange contraptions.
Also referred to, equally chillingly, as the Tortureum, the Museum of Torture is more than just a collection of racks, spiky cages and pendulums – although these also feature. This recently opened attraction also re-creates, thanks to sensory techniques, what it’s like to be trapped in a dungeon, a fate few visitors will have experienced first-hand.
Yes, yes, an actual Museum of Mushrooms, though it’s something of a misnomer. This is more an educational facility that shows the range of mushrooms and how they grow. The message is one of biodiversity, something that fellow founders and enthusiasts, Croatia’s Mushroom Society, would agree with wholeheartedly.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the very few sports stars to have an entire museum dedicated to themselves, so the fact that Zagreb has a Dražen Petrović Museum demonstrates the kind reverence reserved here for this former basketball hero. Set on the square also named after him, this singular but strangely fascinating attraction tells the story of a man who started life crippled then rose to be a top star in the NBA. His death in a car crash at the age of 28 adds an important element of poignancy to the visit.
As well as being a major archive and public attraction, the Ethnographic Museum demonstrates just how far and wide its founder, textile trader Salamon Berger, actually travelled. More than that, perhaps, is the question of how he managed to cart it all back: 8,000 examples of material woven and sewn from the near 100 countries he visited in his role as a globe-trotting merchant. As well as the brightly coloured cloth from the Pacific, South America and Africa, the museum also shows the instruments locals used to play here, and the furniture they sat on, ate from and slept in.
How do you enjoy and appreciate art when you’re completely or partially blind? The Typhlologica Museum shows you, by means of special installations, a dark room and other illuminating features. The museum also covers the history and development of Braille.