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Toasters and waterfalls in Croatia

Filed in Blog, Croatia, United Kingdom by on May 27, 2014

I must admit, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of traveling in Croatia and Slovenia, states that had been part of former Yugoslavia, because of the immense amount of conflict the region has experienced over the past century. It was jarring to meet people only slightly older than me who had grown up in the midst of the Yugoslav wars, and who could remember and tell me what they were doing on the day their countries became independent (both became independent in June 1991). The effects of this violence and political instability were certainly still present, particularly in the work created by native artists that was on display in the streets and museums. I felt that the professionals in the tourism industry I interacted with were particularly keen on showing us the beauty of their homes and moving forward from their pasts that had intimidated me and, I presume, many other outsiders who did not know how friendly and, now, peaceful these countries are.

  • Our first stop in Croatia was the capital city, Zagreb, which is at the heart of a metropolitan area with a population of over one million people. Zagreb was relatively un-touristed, so we found it enjoyable to simply stroll around the Old Town and tram out to some of the large city parks.


    A bird’s eye view of Zagreb

  • If we hadn’t felt the language barrier in Italy, we were certainly noticing it now. Though we got by fine using English, we found ourselves trying (and failing) to speak Croatian on several occasions. When all else failed, as all else usually did, we fell back on the one word we felt confident about: hvala (HVAH-lah) which means “thank you.”

    Dolac Market, Zagreb’s most famous open air market


    St. Mark’s Church, with the Croatian flag on its tiled roof

  • As in several of the other cities I’d been to, I found the amount and quality of street art in Zagreb delightful. These panels seemed like they might have been created, at least partly, by school children.

    An artistic rendering of St. Mark’s


    An artistic rendering of a unicorn

  • The definite highlight of our time in Zagreb was a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships; yes, it’s a real museum, and it has to be the coolest museum of all time. The museum came into being in 2006, after a real-life couple of Croatian artists broke up and joked about finding a place for all of their stuff. They ended up inviting friends to donate items from their own broken relationships, and the exhibit went on tour around the world before finding its permanent home in Zagreb. It now features exhibits from donors in North America and all over Europe. Each of the items, which ranged from articles of clothing to stuffed animals to books to silverware to letters, included an accompanying explanation written by the donor, which were sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking and often more cryptic than clarifying. These exhibits were entirely addictive and impossible to stop reading, so we, along with every other visitor I saw, lingered at each and every exhibit — something I think can probably be said of very few museums.


    A wall of exhibits at the Museum of Broken Relationships

  • This was my favorite item donated to the museum. In case the caption isn’t clear in the photo, it reads: “When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?” I like the way this guy or girl thinks.


    My favorite museum exhibit of all time

  • Of course, there were other interesting signs to be found in Zagreb. This was a personal favorite. I was impressed by how well the sign makers combined two warnings into one pictograph.

    Impressively succinct signage in Zagreb


    The Croatian National Theatre

  • We ventured away from the city for a day in Plitvice National Park, a reserve of pristine lakes and waterfalls founded in 1949 and later added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The park is a vast expanse of clear turquoise water, boardwalks, deciduous forest, karst caves and waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls.

    Plitvice National Park


    Plitvice National Park


    Plitvice National Park


    Clear water


    Plitvice National Park

  • The funny thing about visiting Plitvice was that it felt oddly like being at home; the karst landscape and consequent limestone caves and cliffs were more reminiscent of Missouri’s landscape than any other place I’ve been to in Europe. And so, in a place I could scarcely imagine before I’d been to it, I felt a little like I was exploring my own backyard.


    Fun with silhouettes in caves

Next we headed north to Slovenia! Photos and bullet points soon to come.

Comments (2)

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  1. Lorna says:

    Once again a wonderful rendition of your travels and spectacular photos!

  2. Linda Gilmore says:

    Love the waterfalls and beautiful theatre!!! So glad you are seeing such beautiful sights!!!!!