Breaking Up is Hard to Do……

Although not a “heartwarming” subject, it seems as though breaking up was the theme of our second day in Croatia.  On our way to the capital city of Zagreb, we came across the city of Karlovac, a crucial town in Croatia’s War of Independence/Homeland War (1991 – 1995).  I must admit, I didn’t know much about this region before stopping at a roadside military museum dedicated to the town’s sacrifices during the war.  The history is incredibly complicated in this region, but from what I’ve gathered, Karlovac was the stronghold for the Republic of Croatia against Serbs.  In 1992, Croatia became an independent republic, breaking its longstanding “relationship” with Yugoslavia, but the Serbs (supported by Serbia) were not happy about this decision in the least.  For more than 4 years, this town was shelled by heavily artillery and bombed by enemy fighters (Russian-produced MiGs) and many of the buildings/houses still bear the scars of the bombardment.  The museum in Karlovac had a series of tanks used by the Croatians, as well as a MiG that was shot down by the loyalist army.  The main building where the Croatian army held their meetings still stands, albeit without a roof or any windows, as a sign of the city’s endurance.

The Serbs effectively sought a new Serb state with new boundaries in areas of Croatia with a Serb majority or significant minority and attempted to conquer as much of Croatia as possible.  The goal was primarily to keep Croatia with the rest of the Serbian nation, which was seen as an attempt to form a “Greater Serbia.”  When the Croatians decided to fight back, the Serbs attacked from all angles.

Map of the Serbs’ attacks on Croatia

At the Karlovac museum, this is what is left of the Croatian meeting hall.  The roof was destroyed by artillery fire, but the city never surrendered to the Serbian attacks.  The compound was protected by a series of “pill-boxes” surrounding the perimeter.

Main meeting place for the Croatian Army

Bullet holes remain in the meeting hall

Memorial to the 20,000+ (on both sides) who died in the Homeland War

Pill box at the main entrance of the military meeting hall

On display is a MIG used by the Croatians against the Serbian and the wreckage of a Serbian MiG that was shot down by the Croatians.


The MIG that was shot down by the Croatians

A star remains on the wreckage

What’s left of the engine

In addition to the MIG displays, there were also some interesting tanks and troop carriers.  The first carrier bears the signs of war.

Bullet holes that destroyed the carrier

Troop carriers

One of the most interesting parts of the museum exhibit showed photos of some of the city’s destruction during the four years of the Homeland War.

Bomb wreckage at Karlovac’s bus station (photo of a photo)

Croatian soldiers at an army camp named “Hotel California”

On the way out of town, we saw many houses (at least 20) that still had walls laden with bullet holes and the tell-tale signs of war.

Karlovac home, 20 years later

After all was said and done, the war ended with a total Croatian victory, as the Croatian people achieved the goals they had declared at the beginning of the war: independence and preservation of its borders.  However, much of Croatia remained devastated, with estimates ranging from 21–25% of its economy destroyed and roughly $37 billion in damages.

After leaving Karlovac, we traveled on to Zagreb, the capital and the largest city in Croatia.  We really enjoyed the scenery and found the road signs interesting.  Apparently each region has a symbol (generally an animal, fish, etc).  I’m not sure how they come up with the animal though, as the area with the lobster was nowhere near an ocean.  Hmm…..

Croatian countryside

Interesting road signs

The kingdom of the lion

And Croatia is even getting in the autumn/Halloween spirit!  (I know, they probably use their model for actual farming purposes).

Croatian scarecrow

Okay, now on to Zagreb.  The city is largely known as the cultural center of the country, as it’s home to 10+ museums.   Unfortunately, the state museums were closed the day we visited (this ALWAYS happens to us!), but we did get to see a private museum named “Best of Europe” in 2011.  And yes, it continues with the theme of break ups gone bad.

Self explanatory

Aptly named, the museum centers on the concept of the failed relationship and its aftermath.  There are a series of rooms, each named after a category of break up.  One room focuses on rage, one centers on sadness, and another documents those relationships that simply ran their course.  People from all around the world told their stories, donating an accompanying object to portray their relationship gone wrong.  It is a simple yet powerful concept for a museum, one that definitely plays on visitors’ emotions.

The first is an Italian love story that just never got off the ground.  He had great intentions of showing his love all his favorite places around his homeland.

An Italian love story that was never finished

This American didn’t like her old love letter to her ex laying around the house.  So, she decided to mount the letter to a pieces of glass and smash it to pieces, symbolizing the love gone wrong.  Now those pieces belong to the museum.

A breakup gone bad

This woman took her frustrations (due to a cheating lover) out on his rear view mirror.

This was funny

After a failed relationship, this girl took the axe to one piece of her ex’s furniture per day until there was nothing left.  Seems a little “much” to me.  Maybe she could have just donated his household remains?


A Croatian man left behind his “personal wash” and his ex’s mom found that it did wonders for glass polishing!  Genius!


There were some stories that were sad as well.  One spoke of an American soldier taking his life after returning home with PTSD.  Another person discovered the depth of his companion’s love after he died from AIDS.

And this one was incredibly sad

My favorite (sorry I didn’t get a photo) dealt with a relationship gone bad in Oklahoma (of all places).  After the couple broke up, the girl said she struggled living without her love because she had to “divorce” him AND his (which had also became her) football team–The University of Oklahoma.  She donated an OU sweatshirt claiming it made her sick to see (I understand!)  I busted out laughing, telling Bobby she’s much better off without that man!  (Hook ’em Horns!)

After the museum, we wondered around the city, seeing all the “tourist-y” sites.

Zagreb skyline

Tram to/from Upper Town

The Zagreb Cathedrals has gone through a series of hurdles to stand where it is today.  The Tatars tried to destroy it, it was heavily damaged by a fire, and an earthquake in 1880 threatened to topple it over.  But, here it is, intact in all its Gothic glory.

Zagreb Cathedral

The earthquake did stop the church’s clock, but the city decided to leave in its frozen state, as a reminder of the church’s perseverance.

Clock forever stopped

In 1901 the church undertook a twenty-year restoration project to restore the Gothic towers damaged from centuries of atmospheric pollution.  However, under Soviet rule during the following decades, many of the formerly restored details fell back into disrepair.  Local stonemasons re-initiated restoration of the towers in 1999.  On the left is the “restored” 1901 tower and on the right is the “new” tower.  The right tower is still undergoing repairs, as evidenced in the photo of the cathedral’s facade.

Before (L) and after (R)

One of the coolest churches was St. Mark’s in Zagreb’s Upper Town.  The church is located in the center of the government’s main office.  The roof is simply amazing!

St. Mark’s Church

St. Mark’s

Awesome roof

And lastly, we found out that Nikola Tesla, an engineer/scientist who worked with AC electrical current, radio transmissions, and X-rays, was born near here!


Before departing, we ended up talking to a couple of Americans professors.  One of the two had family roots in the area.  She was very passionate about the history and described Zagreb as “the best, the best!”  After a long day of enjoying Croatian culture and history, we agree.



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