Like many of the world’s greats, Nikola Tesla lived his early life in modest circumstances: born to Serbian parents in the small city of Smiljan, Croatia. Tesla’s family homestead is simple, even by 19th-century standards. Still, the compound, complete with only a whitewashed house, barn and the Serbian Orthodox Church of which Tesla’s father was minister, stands as a monument to the austerity that produced one of Croatia’s most influential native sons.
And Croatia wants the world to remember. On July 10, 2006, on the 150th anniversary of Tesla’s birth and coinciding with Croatia’s state-mandated “Year of Nikola Tesla,” Tesla’s birthplace was opened as a museum.
The museum is composed of the two halves of Tesla’s self: his idyllic country upbringing and his science-oriented adult life. Comprised of a multimedia center with hands-on science exhibits, renovated original structures, a playground for future scientists, and – perhaps most fitting – Tesla’s favorite childhood brook outfitted with an experimental display, the museum has become a rather surprising tourist attraction.
One of the most noteworthy exhibitions at the multimedia center is a demonstration of rotating magnetic field principles, illustrated with a jumping-and-jittering iron egg. The idea is that two or more magnetic currents interacting with each other alternately take control of the egg and make it spin in seemingly random directions and speeds.
Know Before You Go
From the main highway – Zagreb-Split – near Smiljan, take the Gospic exit. Follow the signs for the museum for approximately the next 5 kilometers into Smiljan.