Finding The Many Dwarfs of Wrocław in Poland

Prison Dwarf of Wrocław

Those that know me know I’m not really one for cutesy or kitsch things. So taking a tour of city that focuses solely on gnomes in a range of cute poses really shouldn’t be up my alley. But travel is often about doing things you normally wouldn’t at home. I have to admit I was pretty curious when I came across Free Walking Tour’s Dwarfs of Wrocław. This tour turned out to be about far more than just some small metal gnomes and was a really great way to learn more about the city. …And see plenty of small, metal gnomes.

So what are the Dwarfs of Wrocław? Simply put, they are small bronze gnomes known as “Krasnal” in Polish, that are scattered throughout the city of Wrocław in Poland’s west. Generally about a foot high, each dwarf is unique and is depicted doing a different activity, from withdrawing money from an ATM, to eating an ice-cream, to delivering a pizza. Think Snow White but taken to extreme lengths. The Dwarfs of Wrocław, while a recent phenomenon, have become a symbol of Wrocław and to date there are well over 300 found throughout the city.

 

Background

Dwarf Information in Wrocław

The story behind the dwarfs is actually quite an unusual one, starting with Poland’s communist past. Ok, so I may get a little too into the history so if you’re not that interested, here’s the short version:

Orange dwarfs were a symbol of a protest movement against the communist government in the 1980s. A recent memorial to this movement inspired a popular initiative of dwarf statues found throughout Wrocław. [Skip to photos below]

 

Long version:

During the 1980s, a movement known as the Orange Alternative arose in Wrocław to rebel against the Communist regime. Their tactics were always a little unorthodox and tended towards mockery and absurdity to ridicule the government in protest. One of their popular acts was to respond to the covering up of anti-government graffiti by the regime, by painting over the fresh paint with pictures of gnomes/dwarfs. Soon their were thousands of dwarfs being graffitied all over the place. This forced the regime to perform the rather absurd act of covering up pictures of gnomes throughout the city. The symbol of the movement would become the Orange Dwarf.

By finding creative ways to incorporate others into their protests, they regularly made a mockery of the police and establishment. My favourite perhaps is when the Orange Alternative distributed single sheets of toilet paper to people – a scarcity at the time – and in turn forcing the authorities to go around actively searching for and confiscating toilet paper from people. Another act, seemingly inspired by diehard spots fan, was that groups would print a slogan in single letters across their collective shirts that either spelt out “Away with the heat”, or alternatively “Away with the truncheons” with the addition of a single “u”.

First Dwarf of Wrocław

In 2001 a memorial to the Orange Alternative was unveiled, a statue of a single bronze dwarf. Years later, in 2005 a local artist crafted 5 more gnome-like statues that were placed throughout the city. Over the next few years, more and more slowly popped up, but there seems to have been a dwarf explosion in recent times and with it, the dwarf became the modern symbol of the city of Wrocław.

 

Modern Dwarfs

Bank Dwarf, Dwarfs of Wrocław

While there were only a few at first, there are now 163 official dwarfs found throughout the city of Wrocław. But you may be asking why I said there were over 300 dwarfs earlier? That’s because, in the words of my tour leader, there are many “illegal dwarfs” popping up about Wrocław. Yes, illegal dwarfs. Apparently, there is an official process required by the city in order for people or a business to have their dwarf, but not everyone is willing to go through it.

The reason why people are so keen to have their own dwarfs is that they’re seen as a fantastic advertising tool. For example, people are for more likely to visit your ice cream parlour if they’re coming by to see the “Ice-cream Dwarf”. They’re a great way to drive foot traffic and particularly tourists to your business, so I can see why some are so eager to join the fray.

Handicapped Dwarfs of WrocławCynicism aside, financial gain isn’t the only reason the dwarfs have been created, with non-profit organisations like Wrocław Without Barriers introducing three handicapped dwarfs as part of their campaign. Others like the tourist dwarf or the water fountain dwarf are just there to indicate nearby services available to the public. Often a gendered sort of thing, there’s no call for alarm. Yes, there are even female dwarfs, sans beard of course, like the below pharmacist dwarf. Female dwarfs were in fact among the first real wave of dwarfs positioned around the city.

The diversity and creativity of the dwarfs has meant that they’ve become an increasingly popular tourist attraction in their own right and a novel way to encourage to explore more of Wrocław. The love of the dwarfs knows no bounds it seems, as there is even a Dwarf Festival that takes place every year in September.

Pharmacist Dwarfs of Wrocław

 

Dwarfs, Dwarfs and More Dwarfs

With all that history and explanation out of the way, sit back and look through a bunch more photos of these funny little guys and gals. In the last one, see if you can spot the little guy all the way up there.

Many Dwarfs of Wrocław

Many Dwarfs of Wrocław

Many Dwarfs of Wrocław

Dwarf on a Ledge, Dwarfs of Wroclaw

 

There you have it, the Dwarfs of Wrocław. I’ll be writing a more general, dwarf-free post on what to see in Wrocław later on, so keep a look out for that.

 


Have you seen the Dwarfs of Wrocław? What other small art installations can you think of that give you insight into a place’s culture or history? Please share in the comments below.

Why Not Pin It for Later

Finding the Many Dwarfs of Wrocław in Poland, via @travelsewhere

 


This post is part of Wanderful Wednesday at SnowinTromso and Monday Escapes at Extraordinary Chaos. Please head on over for more great posts.

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33 Comment

  1. We tend to enjoy city projects like this, especially when it showcases a city mascot or theme and highlights some of the attractions of the city. The gnomes are awesome, because…well, they’re gnomes! Fun stuff!

  2. vanbrune says:

    Ohh that is so cute! I bet many people overlook them entirely so it’s cool to go on a little hunt to find them all 🙂

    1. David says:

      They’re definitely worth seeking out Van 🙂

  3. I’ve heard of the endless amounts of dwarfs in Wroclaw but didn’t realize there were sooo many of them! The history of these dwarfs is really hilarious! I love it! #WanderfulWednesday

  4. Well, this certainly beats Pokemon Go, haha. But seriously, I had no idea that Wroclaw had these statues all over town. When we were in Bratislava we spent hours walking around town to find and photograph the creative bronze statues. It was so much fun. Now I’m afraid we might spend our entire time in Wroclaw searching out the 300-odd dwarfs. I don’t know if I should thank you for this article or not. 😀

  5. Love the history behind the dwarves, and they are SO cute! I laughed at your last photo of the dwarf that was placed high up on that building.

  6. Ruth says:

    This is so cool! As you can imagine, I want to visit this city to see how many dwarfs I can spot. A free tour to spot them sounds like an excellent option. How can you distinguish between a legal and illegal dwarf? #WanderfulWednesday

    1. David says:

      Very good question Ruth and I’m afraid I don’t know. I imagine only the city knows which are legal and which aren’t!

  7. Tanja says:

    so cool! I didn’t know about the dwarfs in Poland:) #wanderfulwednesday

  8. Stop the press … there are illegal dwarfs in Poland! Brilliant! They are right about it being a good advertising tool though, especially if they run tours and if people like yourself take them, who said good marketing doesn’t work eh? Great story though, really enjoyed this rather different post 😀 #feetdotravel

  9. lol…love the dwarfs of Wroclaw. I can not believe people would have illegal dwarfs…awe wait a minute its to get people to visit their establishment. 🙂 Great history and happy you took the tour since it doesn’t sound like a tour you would take. Great photos, yes I found the dwarf on the building. Happy you shared 🙂

  10. Garth says:

    I’ve never heard of these dwarfs! What fun, enjoyed reading this. Me and Phil love free walking tours, this one is very niche! always a nice way to see the city.

  11. Midori says:

    This is so much fun!!! 😂😂😂

  12. Oana says:

    I never heard of these dwarfs but I have to admit there are many things about Poland that are still unknown to me. This tour seems to be an interesting way to discover the city while you admire the dwarfs. Great post, thank you for sharing!

  13. Laura says:

    Oh my goodness how funny. Thanks for sharing the history of the dwarves; I agree about not being one for tours typically, but I am also a sucker for interesting historical tidbits.

  14. Loved reading this! I would definitely do a tour and be 👀 my out for them! It’s fun but also has its origins in an important time for people living under communism- what a great way to protest! And now what a great thing for the city to do – I rather like the idea of the illegal ones too! Great pics and I spotted the little guy with no fear of heights!! #followmefriday

  15. paulandcarolelovetotravel says:

    What a great way to explore a city looking for dwarfs! Really enjoyed this post. #feetdotravel

  16. This is so much fun! I love how the city has used these cute little dwarves to brand itself. I would have so much fun on this tour. Thanks for sharing!

  17. What a fun marketing tool for the town and they’re so well crafted. Very cute indeed!

  18. Wow I didn’t expect to be reading about illegal dwarves today! I love the idea of them scattered around town though – I wonder if there is like an official checklist of all of them (I would totally go and try and find them all!). Such a cool discovery – thanks for sharing!

  19. Lisa (Simple Sojourner) says:

    I love the history surrounding the Dwarfs. I had not heard of this before. I mean, it’s just fun and to take time to hunt for them all. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Never even heard of the dwarfs in Wroclaw. Putting it on the list. Will be a fun quest.

  21. I love this! I wish I had heard about this before we left Poland. I would turn this into a scavenger hunt and try to find them all.

  22. Too cute!!

  23. illegal dwarves? This has truly gone full circle!

  24. This sounds SO cool! I love stumbling across weird and wonderful things like this when travelling 🙂

    1. David says:

      Poland’s pretty grew for weird (and wonderful) things to do and see Sarah 🙂

      1. I’ve heard such mixed review about it!! A few people have said the Crooked forrest is a major letdown. I guess the point is getting off the tourist trail though!

        1. David says:

          The Crooked Forest wasn’t as incredible as I expected mostly in terms of size, but it is still a bizarre sight. Poland in general is a great country to visit though. I’ve got plenty of more posts on there to come 😉

          1. I’m looking forward to them 😀

  25. Trish @ Mum's Gone To says:

    I remember seeing a TV travel programme which mentioned the Dwarfs of Wroclaw but this is great to see so many photos of them. And I loved reading your long version as I now know far more about their history than I gleaned from the programme.
    #mondayescapes

  26. Very interesting post.
    Wrocław is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and it is not yet discovered by tourists. I love the city and I often come back there.

  27. Lisa Jane says:

    What a unique thing to do! My boys would love this;) Thanks for linking to #MondayEscapes

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