Art / Poland / Travel

The Wroclaw Gnomes: Too Much Fun!

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If there’s one thing that we’ve learned as long term travelers, it’s that you can’t be a tourist all the time. Day after day of cathedrals, temples, museums, and monuments can lead to burnout. But, tourist overload can be easily avoided with a bit of time off the routine. And our Wroclaw Gnome safari provided just the fun and relaxing break we needed.

After a long day in transit, we stumbled on the first gnomes on an early evening walk. We’d read about the gnomes, but really had no idea how carefully sculpted and cleverly located they’d be.  Some are easily spotted, and others hide cat-like, just slightly in view. According to information we saw, there are between 150-250 of the little people scattered around town.

They are true, free-form public art, with no apparent governing body. There’s an official website, but we saw lots of gnomes that weren’t included on their list.

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The Busker and the Music Lover with their very cool sunglasses (that had mysteriously disappeared the next time we saw these little guys!)

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The Chopper-Dwarf placed in front of a church by a local motorcycle club.

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The ever-popular Boozer and Drinker just off the main square.

Businesses have gotten in on the act as well. We saw bank gnomes, pub gnomes, stock broker gnomes, accountant gnomes, professor gnomes …

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The Dermatologist’s Gnome gazing into her looking glass … and the only female Gnome we saw!

… and even dermatologist gnomes.

And while most are comical, many are designed to communicate a serious message. In fact, their original creators were members of the Orange Alternative movement – an underground protest movement opposed to the communist government in power before independence.

The "Disability Gnomes" remind everyone to provide access and services to those in need.

The “Disability Gnomes” remind everyone to provide access and services to those in need.

The Firemen

The Firemen

The Prisoner

The Prisoner

But don’t get the wrong idea. The Wroclaw gnomes are cute, clever, fun, and interesting. They’re so popular that the tourist board sells a map that has locations and names for over 70 gnomes.

You may wonder how these cute little guys stay in place. Well, after a few cases of “gnoming” (when gnome enthusiasts “liberate” a gnome to take it on an “extended vacation”), the sculptors started putting GPS tracking devices in them so they can “find their way home.” And apparently several have, particularly around the University campus.

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The Snorer is delightful in its detail – curled-toe shoes by the bed, he’s ready to catch some serious Zzzzzz’s!

In case you can’t tell, we absolutely love the gnomes. They stoked our inner child, and were a delightful diversion from the tourist routine.

And hat’s off to Wroclaw for recognizing a good thing and capitalizing on it.

Happy Gnoming,
James & Terri

A Pole Dwarf

A Pole Dwarf

P.S. We prepared a few Gnome FAQs (aka Little-Gnome Facts)

Where do gnomes go for Christmas? Gnome, Alaska
What’s their favorite Shakespearean play? Gnomeo and Juliet
What’s their favorite cowboy song? Gnome on the Range

Do you have any Gnome FAQs?

70 thoughts on “The Wroclaw Gnomes: Too Much Fun!

  1. These are fabulous. I’m assuming they’re either too heavy or too attached to be stolen, or they wouldn’t be where the map says they are. I love this idea, and you’re right: they are very well crafted! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the reminder Rusha. Theft is indeed a problem, and recently they’ve started installing GPS trackers … no joke. We planned on putting this in the post and it slipped through the cracks. And thanks to your question, this is the text we added:
      “You may wonder how these cute little guys stay in place. Well, after a few cases of “gnoming” (when gnome enthusiasts “liberate” a gnome to take it on an “extended vacation”), the sculptors started putting GPS tracking devices in them so they can “find their way home.” And apparently several have, particularly around the University campus.”

      Who says blogging isn’t a cooperative effort. Thanks. ~ James

    • I totally agree Agata. We bought the brochure and did the walk to find as many gnomes as we could. And then we’d be on a walk and just stumble into a new one. It was very fun to have an unplanned sighting. ~ James

  2. amo moltissimo questi deliziosi piccoli gnomi, mi spiace però che stiano lontani da funghi e foreste, perduti fra le grandi case e il cemento
    buon giorno
    Ven

    I love so much these delicious little Gnomes, sorry but they are far from fungi and forest, lost among the great houses and cement

    • It’s hard to look at these cute little gnomes and not smile. My favorite was the 3 ATM gnomes. One was counting on his (three) fingers, one was using an abacus, and the other was pushing money out the slot. Very funny and clever. ~ James

  3. I second that! Delightful post! The gnomes have such great personalities! Although the finds are hidden, it reminds me of geocaching in a way! My son geocaches and has over 500 finds from all over the world.

    • Thanks Dixie. And you’re perceptive to recognize that a gnome search is a lot like geocaching. The first few weren’t obvious, but after a bit of searching, we developed a knack for where to look, and it got easier. I can also tell you that we raised some eyebrows with our less than graceful bending, stooping, and kneeling to photograph them. I was glad I was in a foreign country. ~ James

  4. I can see why you love the gnomes. ‘Whimsical’ as Sheena noted, is the perfect description of these fun little fellows. Hunting for them sounds like more fun than Geocaching…would that be Geognoming?
    I love the Biker Gnome and if I had a favorite, it would be the gnome-sized ATM. The Professor looks like he is working out ‘polygnomial’ equations. Sorry, I should have gnome better. But hey, you started it! :) – Mike

    • Thanks Mike. I’m glad to see you’re getting into the spirit of this post. Geonoming … very good. Too bad we’re in Europe, or I would have awarded a T shirt for the best pun, and so far, you’d be on the finalist list. BTW, did you see the comment re: GPS trackers to prevent theft? Pretty funny. ~ James

    • Thanks Steph! Evidently the Little Guys by the University kept disappearing (no surprise there), particilarly the one called The Swordsman. Evidently since the installation of the GPS chips, he’s been “retrieved” several times. :) ~Terri

  5. I absolutely loved this whimsical post! Some of those gnomes surely took some hunting- I almost missed the first little guy sitting under James in the first picture. They say there’s nothing like gnome, sweet gnome, but finds like these are the reason we all love to travel! ;)

  6. Wonderful post! You went for these little guys in a big way :) Love the sunglasses! You got quite a few I didn’t manage but then I plan to go back sometime. I got a bit lost and disoriented hopping on and off buses and trams when I was trying to get back to the suburb where my cousin lives, but I loved the city. Glad you enjoyed :0

    • Many thanks Jo. We fell in love with these little guys and would definitely go back for more – evidently we only scratched the surface. At the end of each day we would realize that we’d walked right past some. Sneaky little guys! :) ~Terri

  7. OMG, this post was soo much fun! I have bookmarked it so when it is time for some international travel for us, we are goin’ to see the gnomes! :)

    • Thanks Surya. These gnomes and this public art project were so neat that we couldn’t resist. And as a blogger, you know how it is, always looking for new, interesting material. Thanks for the comment and for stopping by the blog. ~ James

  8. Pingback: Grumpy Butt Gnome Thwarts the Evil Nose Troll | Daily Story For Children

  9. I’m sad to say that I haven’t been by your blog in awhile, but today I am so glad that I did! This was such a wonderful, fun and charming post–and of course now I’m about to begin scouring the other posts I’ve missed out on recently. Sending you blessings and happiness on your travels, and I hope you have just as many gnome-filled adventures!

    • So glad to have you back Whitney! Where have you been roaming? Thank you for the blessings, and if every destination could have cool little gnomes I’d be happy! :) All the best, Terri

  10. What a “gnome”ble task to photograph these delightful creatures for us! We’d have to be “i”gnome”ble not to enjoy them! I’m really torturing these puns, aren’t I? I love these gnomes. Gnome is where the heart is!

  11. So my mind goes to the ‘wandering gnome’ of the Travelocity TV commercials here in the states awhile back (not sure if they’re still on as I cancelled my cable some time ago). Great pictures, fun story, funny comments! ~SueBee

    • I’ve seen the Travelocity gnome, but only on TV in hotels. Like you, we cut the cable some time ago as well – good for us both. The Wroclaw gnomes were so much fun, because in addition to the “known gnomes”, lots of people had designed unofficial “unknown gnomes”. It was fun to stumble into new ones we didn’t expect. ~James

      • This makes for a great new “search and find” project. Some years back I was in Nashville, Tennessee and was thrilled to find catfish statues all over downtown, each painted by a different artist. Of course, Kat and I had to find and photograph as many as we could! Other cities do similar things with their respective “known for” objects. ~SueBee

      • Funny you should mention these painted critter projects. I’ve seen them all over the US, and they’re great fun. I went to university in Lexington, KY and guess what their project is … horses of course. Here on St. Simons Island, GA we have bulldogs (Univ of GA dawgs that is). Cows in Chicago, Turtles on Tybee Island, GA, etc. etc. I haven’t seen the catfish in Nashville, but next time through I’ll check them out. Thanks. ~James

    • Many thanks Tanny – they were so fun. According to my research there are a few other female gnomes (maybe 3 or 4), but I couldn’t find out why they are so scarce. And what a great question you pose – How do they populate? Obviously another little gnome fact! :) ~Terri

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