But Wroclaw had something I wasnâ€™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 â€˜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 Childrenâ€™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 Wroclawâ€™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
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