The Dwarves of Wrocław Will Make You Squeal

In Europe, one can get a neck ache from looking up at all the ancient castles, churches and houses. Remember to look down, however, especially in the Silesian city of Wrocław.  It has many of the features of Poland’s other big cities (a massive market square, mediaeval cloth and town halls and grand old churches), but a second town can be found at the level of our shins, populated by the dwarves of Wrocław!

The dwarves get their own ATMs too.
So that’s where all the money goes…

Introducing Wrocław’s dwarves

History of the Dwarves of Wrocław

These little fellows can trace their origins to the Orange Alternative (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) movement which started in the city. It lampooned the communist regime through pranks that included putting pictures of dwarves where anti-establishment graffiti had been whitewashed.

Communism in Poland is history now and almost all the drawings have disappeared. However, the city installed the first bronze dwarves of Wrocław in 2001 to commemorate the movement. They number more than 300 now, and there are even a devoted website and a map of their locations.

The Dwarves of Wrocław Will Make You Squeal 1
The first dwarf sculpture in Wroclaw, where ul. Świdnicka and Kazimierza Wielkiego meet. The Orange Alternative often held events on this square.

Dwarves that I found

One could spend an entire day looking for all of them! Not all of them are easy to find even with the help of the map; some try to get closer to (human) eye-level…

This was the first dwarf that I spotted, outside the Raclawice Panorama.
This was the first dwarf that I spotted, outside the Raclawice Panorama.

…while others wait to catch the unwary out.

Can anyone translate the sign?

At a dwarf’s eye level, everything appears a lot bigger and significant. Bricks and steps seem like walls and cliffs, and little cobblestone chips that we trample underfoot become dangerous obstacles.

Don’t lose your balance, charmer

The variety of ways that they are depicted is immense, and so are the photo opportunities. Some just want your attention.

Would you help a brother out?
Won’t you help a brother out?

While others go about their daily business in their miniature world, which seems to have all the amenities of the human-sized city around them. A stranger told me the dwarves come alive when people are asleep, like in Toy Story. I find it easier to believe that it happens when people are wasted.

Business time
Business time

Some of them mirror the activities that take place on the same street, like these busking dwarves. I don’t know if they sound as good as the young violinists who played Bach behind me as I took this photograph.

I thought they could use a bottle cap.

A few dwarves of Wroclaw cross the divide to help out with human activities. (Maybe it’s actually slavery, but we need an investigation)

Heave, ho!

Sadly, their efforts are not always appreciated or reciprocated

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Vratislavians seldom take a second look at them, while stupid tourists like myself are happy to simply take photographs in awkward positions. For the extra cheer that they bring to this colourful city, perhaps they deserve a little more?

Give us a hand, won't yah?
Give us a hand, won’t ya?