Wrocław – The City of Dwarves

The overnight bus from Gdansk was less than ideal in terms of comfort for sleep, but it was both transport and accommodation for the price of one. I arrived in Wrocław (pronounced vrotswav, believe it or not) at 8am and headed straight to my hostel. I couldn’t check in until 2pm so I left to meet another walking tour at 10am.

Wrocław’s main square.

The walking tour was very informative, like all the others. We saw the Town Hall, found out that the flower shops are open 24/7 (just in case you need to buy flowers at 3am on a Wednesday), and we visited Cathedral Island. Wrocław has several canals running through it and according to the tour guide it is 5th on the list of cities in Europe with the most bridges, thus having several islands as well, one of these islands being dedicated to churches.

The Town Hall.

But the most interesting thing about Wrocław, in my opinion, are the dwarves. There are over 300 of these little statues spread all over the city, many belonging to shops, others owned by the city council. Some are permanently visible, others are put out or taken inside based on their owner’s discretion. The dwarves began as part of the “Orange Alternative”, an anti-communist movement from the 80s that offered citizens a peaceful form of protest through demonstrating the absurdity of the communist regime. Their idea was to put the police into a position where members of the Orange Alternative couldn’t be arrested without the authorities becoming a laughing stock.

View of the Old Town.

One example of this is toilet paper. The regime had rationed toilet paper. It wasn’t available to buy in shops, each person was given about seven rolls of toilet paper that was expected to last them an entire year. Members of the Orange Alternative started handing out toilet paper to people on the streets, enraging the authorities but highlighting the ridiculous nature of the regime. Another thing they did throughout the movement was paint funny images of dwarves over the city, but they didn’t just paint the dwarves anywhere. When the authorities found any anti-communist images on walls they would simply cover it up with a big paint spot. The Orange Alternative painted their dwarves on these paint spots.

“Papa Dwarf”, who stands on top of what is supposed to be a raised middle finger.

A dwarf statue was placed near the centre of the Old Town in 2001 as a monument to this movement, known as Papa Dwarf. From 2005 onwards, other, smaller dwarf figures started appearing around the city as a continuing tribute to the Orange Alternative, and it has become a popular activity to go Dwarf Hunting. So that’s what I did. I got 43 dwarves, so I didn’t manage to collect them all by any means but I had a great time.


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