Wroclaw is certainly one of the most beautiful Polish cities. I visited it again this winter and fall in love with one more time. But while I enjoyed wandering around the beautiful Old Town with candy-colored houses or crossing numerous bridges, the highlight of my visit and of the best things to do in Wroclaw was Wroclaw gnomes hunting. “Why gnomes?”, you may wonder. Well, why not? Berlin had bears, Prague cows so Wroclaw might have gnomes. But there’s a deeper story behind it.
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Orange Alternative – a background of Wroclaw gnomes
Back in the 1980s, when Poland was still under the Soviet regime, an underground protest movement, called “Orange Alternative”, started in Wroclaw. Its main purpose was to fight with the current system using methods that were considered funny and not harmful, i.e. protesting in an absurd way or painting gnomes over paint spots that covered anti-government slogans. In every attempt of arresting a supporter of Orange Alternative the police became a laughing stock. These were some really weird times and hilarious events…
The birth of Wroclaw gnomes
The very first gnome appeared in Wroclaw in 2001. The monument was made on Świdnicka Street, where happenings of the Orange Revolution used to take place. It’s something unique in the whole world’s scale that the city decided to remember the anti-government initiative yet Wroclaw did it. What no one really expected was that this one gnome would pioneer a new tradition. These little creatures can be found all over the city at the moment.
Best of Wroclaw gnomes
No one really knows how many Wroclaw gnomes are there. The new ones are successively appearing but many are also stolen or destroyed. In October 2013 there were over 270 gnomes living in Wroclaw! Most of them are sponsored by local (and not only) businesses to promote themselves in the gnome way. There’s one taking money from ATM in front of the bank, another one lying flat, with huge belly after eating too much in Pizza Hut or two more creatures stealing chocolate from the sweet-shop. Outside the tourist information a tourist gnome is trying to find his way around the city on the map, next to the hotel another one is sleeping tightly in a comfy bed. In the heart of the picturesque Town Square a trio of disabled gnomes can be found – a blind, a deaf and a wheel chair one – they are there to show that Wroclaw is a barrier free city. But there are some rebel gnomes too – two guys enjoying their booze, another couple trying to robe ATM or a revolutionary one, holding a flag, ready to fight!
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Best way to look for Wroclaw gnomes
Everyone who visits Wrocław should get a map of gnomes location (it can be downloaded from the official website or bought in just about every shop in the Old Town) and go around looking for them! Not only it’s so much fun but also that way you can explore the most beautiful streets and corners of the city. It was one of the most pleasant activities I’ve done when traveling as each found gnome has brought a big smile on my face. We don’t have an Easter egg hunting tradition in here but I imagine there must be something similar in these two games. I felt like a kid when I was walking around the city with my nose glued to the ground and I was full of joy each time I stumbled across a new gnome! I’m sure next time I’m in the city I will go Wroclaw gnomes hunting again as there are still so many of them that I haven’t discovered yet!
Do you like quirky attraction? Would you go Wroclaw gnomes hunting?
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If you think of visiting Poland or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about
- Katowice – the most underrated city in Poland
- Lodz – the alternative and creative center of Poland
- Visit Cieszyn – reasons to fall in love with this beautiful city
- and more!
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