Taking the Long Way travel blog

One large stein please

Rynek; Poland's second oldest market square

St Mary Magdelene's church




There are little gnomes all over Wroclaw in odd places...

Some more obvious than others though

The 'Disappearing Pedestrians' on a busy intersection of Wroclaw

Wroclaw was a two night stop-over on the way to Prague and it was such a cute little place I'm really glad we stopped there. Granted, it didn't have all that much to see or do but it is a beautiful town with a gorgeous mix of Gothic and baroque styles...and a healthy number of bars and restaurants.

Wroclaw has been traded back and forth over the centuries between various rulers. It began life in 1000 under Polish rule, then in the 1970's it passed to Prussia under the German name of Breslau. Upon its return to Poland in 1945, Wroclaw was a shell of its former self, having sustained massive damage in WWII with over 70% of the city being destroyed. Walking around the city there is no evidence of this damage now and there are many many gorgeous buildings, especially around Rynek, the market square. Churches, town halls, museums you name it.

But one of Wrocław’s most popular, memorable and symbolic attractions is not a cathedral, no, not a castle or monument, but a legion of little people. Dwarves to be precise. If you keep your eyes peeled as you walk about town and you notice the little people engaged in a variety of activities – from guarding public space to passed out drunk. These diminutive statues first appeared about 10 years ago and number over 100, dotted all over Wroclaw.

These little bronze sculptures are far from the idle tourist-industry icons that they first appear to be. Although they look like the perfect accompaniment to the sugary spires of the cathedral and the Gothic magnificence of the town hall, they are in fact a tribute to a remarkable political movement that flourished in Wroclaw during the 1980s as the Communist era stuttered to a close.

The dwarves were originally the symbol of the alternative counter-culture, performers group 'Orange Alternative' which prepared action against the communist regime in Wroclaw. In the most popular action organised by 'Orange Alternative', where people where dressed up as dwarfs, thousands of the citizens took part. This was in part due to the belief that the police would be unable to arrest a man for taking part in an illegal procession of dwarves.

Dwarf spotting is a huge tourist past-time and I immersed myself in it completely, although not very successfully.

I'm finding that over the last few weeks the standard of accomdation in the hostels has increased while the standard of bathrooms has rapidly decreased. Here there were about 20 people sharing one combined toilet/shower so you can imagine my dismay when I came out early the first morning there to use the bathroom only to look in the open door and see my fellow dorm mate who I had been drinking with the night before with her head in thr toilet bowl...and no sign of moving anytime soon. Is it a crime to use the disabled bathroom instead at times like that??

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