Lifestyle & Culture

Beth Hoke in Croatia: New Museum of the Senses is a great year-round destination for kids of all ages

BETH HOKE GETS COMFY ON A BED OF NAILS

Combining sensory activities for all ages with a bit of Croatian history, Split’s newest museum, Museum of Senses, is open for business in the City Center One mall. This innovative space is a great indoor activity for kids and adults.

UPSIDE DOWN ROOM (All photos by Beth Hoke for Dispatches Europe)

I recently had the chance to visit this creative venue with fellow expats and it turned out to be a fun way to spend an hour or so and learn a little bit about the country and its history.

Our English-speaking guide led us through the exhibits and explained the science behind the sensory effects and how the museum used Croatian culture to enhance and inform the experience.

LET THE VISUAL STIMULATION BEGIN!

We started our tour in the hall of mirrors, a maze which reflected our images many times over. The symmetrically placed mirrors resulted in a few wrongs turns and dead ends, but we finally made it through to the end.

Next was the 3D Sea, a colorfully painted exhibit that displayed aquatic animals commonly found in the Adriatic. Standing in certain spots created a 3D effect in the photos that our guide captured.

Our next spot on the tour was the Upside-Down Room which the sign said was meant to make us feel disoriented like the people of Split feel when the southern winds, or Jugo, blow.

Stepping up to the large kaleidoscope in the next room, we learned that it was meant to inspire confidence. I’m not sure if I felt more or less confident after seeing my reflection repeated over and over again, but the pictures are pretty cool.

In a large central room, we got to sit on chairs that made it seem as if we were levitating, before heading The Rada Room, a basketball court that was set on a slant that made us look tiny or super tall depending on where we stood. Painted on the back wall was a life-size image of Dino Rada, a professional basketball player from Croatia, who was one of the European pioneers in the NBA.

ULTRA AUDITION, THEN SMELLY SMELLS

KALEIDOSCOPE

Finishing our tour of the exhibits that focused on sight, we moved on a sensory activity tied to sound — a laser harp that could be played by breaking the beams of light.

The plaque on the wall was encouraging, saying that if we were good enough at playing this “instrument,” maybe we would be invited to play in front of the crowds at Ultra Europe, an annual electronic music festival that takes place in multiple venues across Europe, including Split’s Stadion Poljud.

Next we had the chance to play a game of Picigin, a popular game similar to hackysack that is played in the water.

Our guide explained that one of the most popular exhibits for the kids is a pit filled with blue and white balls that represented the waters of the Adriatic. We had our chance to relax in the ball pit and decided that it is equally fun for adults.

Another disorienting exhibit was a tunnel through which we walked on a platform as colored lights spiraled around us. Anyone who has been to a funhouse at a carnival will know what I’m talking about.The disconnect between knowing that you are standing on solid ground, but feeling like your world is spinning around you, is dizzying.

Next, we explored our sense of smell. In the “Smelliest of Smells” exhibit, we put our noses up to cones on boxes mounted to the wall and tried to decipher what made each stinky odor.

A second set of cones attached by translucent tubing to clear boxes containing hidden natural objects represented the odors that the four winds, Oštro, Bura, Maestral, and Jugo carry.

We played with a plasma ball that lit up like the night sky over the sea during a storm, laid on a bed of nails to put us into a fjaka state of mind, and tried to guess which natural elements were in black boxes on the wall by using our sense of touch.

At the end of the tour, we had a chance to chat with the staff and do a bit of shopping in the museum’s retail space.

Split is full of activities for the entire family and the Museum of the Senses is sure to become a favorite for locals and tourists alike. It is available for birthday parties and field trips and can accommodate individuals and groups with special needs.

You can see ticket prices (in Croatian Kuna), hours and other info here.

BETH

About the author: Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.

Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English for EF.

Beth has been traveling around Europe for two years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least six countries including Italy, Germany, Croatia, and Madeira, Portugal.

You can see all her posts here.

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