Wroclaw (pronounced vrotz-wav) is a small city in Poland that’s worth a visit for its charming streets, historical churches and large town square. Despite the beautiful architecture, the city is perhaps most well-known for its gnomes!
Eastern Europe has endured a lot in the last 75 years. From the German occupation to the USSR communist regime, many have struggled through some very dark and challenging times.
Leading up to the fall of communism in the late 80’s there were many peaceful movements throughout Eastern Europe, especially Poland against the communist regime. One such movement was organized in Wroclaw, Poland by the Orange Alternative. The Orange Alternative took to the streets of Wroclaw (and beyond) and painted dwarf graffiti covering communist anit-regime slogans. They also organized the Revolution of Dwarves, in the summer of 1988, where ten thousand marched through the streets of Wroclaw wearing orange dwarf hats. As a result, dwarfs, or gnomes, have become a symbol of the fall of communism that allowed countries such as Poland to regain their freedom.
In 2001, to commemorate the Orange Alternative movement, a dwarf statue (Papa Krasnal) was placed on Swidnicka Street. Four years later, five additional dwarves were created by a local artist and placed around Wroclaw. Since that time, additional dwarves have appeared across town including many that are funded by local businesses.
The dwarves have become a popular tourist attraction. Standing under a foot tall and blending with their surroundings, these bronze statues can be hard to spot! As we walked across the city we found ourselves looking high and low in a quest to find the friendly, yet hidden little statues doing all sorts of activities in the streets. Over the course of our two days in Wroclaw, we managed to find only 50 of the more than 250! Each gnome is different and has its own personality. It is fun to find them and see what activity each one is doing!
Some of our favorite finds from our time in Wroclaw were:
Finding the Gnomes
Although we managed to find a number of gnomes without an official map, we know that we missed a bunch that were right under our noses. To help on your quest you can buy a map at the TI or check out the Krasnale Website for a listing of names, locations, and descriptions of the gnomes. Regardless, be sure to keep your eyes open, they are hidden everywhere!
Don’t forget to look up!
While enjoying a beer on Rynek Square, the main square in Wroclaw, I saw something on the ledge of a building across the street. Could it really be a gnome? If so, what would he be doing way up on the fourth floor? We pondered over that question while finishing our beers and then got up to see if we could get to the fourth floor of the building across the street.
As we left the restaurant, we were shocked to realize we had been sitting just beneath a Bavarian gnome in the doorway of the bar! We just hadn’t looked up…you really have to keep your eyes peeled.
We continued across the street towards the building and entered the store on the ground floor. We were delighted to see stairs and an elevator! We proceeded to climb to the fourth floor where we found several make-shift storefronts set up selling a variety of collectibles like gems and coins. Not knowing exactly where we were going, we cautiously approached a man sitting at a desk in the corner. We gestured towards the window as if to indicate we were interested in what was outside and not necessarily his coins. Sure enough, the Collector gnome was on the ledge looking in at us! He was the highest of the gnomes that we found, but perhaps there are others even higher?
Final Gnome Spotting Tip
Don’t assume you’ve found them all in any given area. Just when you think you have, another one will reveal himself or herself to you! Some of them are even concealed under awnings or behind doorways, so you have to really know about them to even see them at all.
We had more fun than expected trying to scout them all out. On our way out of town we even made a small detour to track #2 in the main train station to find Dwarfette. She was near the end of the track greeting people at the top the stairwell. We said farewell to her, then found our way to the bus station where we boarded a bus and said farewell to the rest of the dwarves of Wroclaw.