Polish Gnome Hunting

I’ve mentioned that I actually quite like Ryanair, especially when it can fly me round-trip for 93 SEK to somewhere I’ve never been before, like the Old Town of Wroclaw, Poland.

But Wroclaw had something I wasn’t expecting.  Gnomes.  Lots and lots of gnomes.  I first stumbled upon a gnome and thought it was a tourist gimmick.  Just a small statue of a gnome peering out at me.  But as I wandered around, I realized gnomes were hiding everywhere.  Some up high staring down at me, some swinging from lamp posts, others hiding right in the open.  And still I thought it was some sort of tourist gimmick.

Turns out those gnomes have a pretty impressive history.  An anti-communist history.  In the ‘80s a group known as the Orange Alternative movement protested against the reigning communist regime.  Their focus was non-violent resistance.  And it seems if they could make people laugh or smile a bit, that was a plus.  So they used a variety of techniques.  One being dressing up as gnomes on International Children’s Day back in 1988.  My favorite story of protest was an account of the group gathering at the local zoo in front of the monkey cage and singing Stalinist anthems.  I appreciate the creativity.

The gnomes, though, became a symbol of the resistance and today dot Wroclaw’s cityscape.  I wandered around the Old Town of Wroclaw, happily surprised by every gnome I managed to find.  I was snapping pictures of every gnome I managed to find. But some eluded me. I just know it.  It became a sort of game that got me lost on several occasions, but lost in a city that suddenly seemed just a bit more whimsical.  Gnomes will do that to you.

I went to Wroclaw because I found a cheap ticket for flying Ryanair; I would gladly travel there again, when planning my next trip to a European city, for the sole purpose of gnome hunting.  There are a few I have yet to catalogue.

Tips for 25 Things to Do in Poland

Read our travel tips for what to do in Poland.

This entry was posted in Poland on by .

About Marcus Cederstrom

I was born in Sweden and moved to the US just before my 6th birthday. I grew up in the United States eventually graduating from the University of Oregon. After graduation and about 17 years in the US I made the decision to move back to Sweden. I have been living in Stockholm since the summer of 2007. Since graduation I have traveled throughout eastern Australia as well as in Sweden and Europe.