The Polish city named Wroclaw used to be a German city called Breslau until 1945. John Paul II called Wroclaw “The Meeting Place” and the term remains. It is the warmest city in Poland.
We wanted to learn more about The Dwarfs of Wroclaw so we took a dwarf tour. (Our daughter Amy, who traveled Europe in the summer following her college graduation, advised us to always take specialty tours instead of general tours since the specialty ones will still tell you about general landmarks and that these guides tend to be more knowledgeable.)
Currently, there are 629 confirmed dwarfs in Wroclaw but there are way more than that. Ninty percent of the dwarfs are male. Our tour promised to show us the more interesting ones.
There are three types:
City – public awareness and tourism boost.
Private – businesses to advertise their products and services. These always have a plaque.
Illegal – without permission as you have to pay a fee to the government to have one installed.
Many of these dwarfs are disappearing by theft because they are made of brass and valued at 1,000€ a piece.
We had a competition to see how many one could find in a designated area. We found four. There were six. (I wondered if a drunk person arrived in Wroclaw who was not aware of the dwarfs might be frightened by seeing little men everywhere.)
There was even a Jimi Hendrix inspired dwarf.
Apparently, on May 1st guitarists come from all over the world and play Hey Joe in unison. They break this record every year which stands at 7,423.
To play at the Wroclaw Guitar Festival, all you have to do is have a guitar and know the five basic chords C / G / D / A / E needed to play the song “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix.
Here is a video that shows a packed main square rockin’ out.
Here is a true dwarf – Sleepy.
This reminds me of our triplet daughters under the watchful eye of their big sister.
Some dwarfs are inside; some are high, etc.
See if you can find one. Hint: Look high on the window ledge.
A dwarf was the symbol of the Orange Alternative Movement; during the communist years the military would paint over any anti-establishment graffiti or public art and soon after a pesky little orange grafitti dwarf would appear over the military paint job.
The Dwarfs and the Orange Alternative Movement gained popularity due to their peaceful protests over the government’s censorship of free speech in Poland and soon became an icon of Wroclaw in the 1980’s.
Mostly a Solidarity movement, Orange Alternative voiced their opposition of the regime by protesting in whimsical and ridiculous ways, forcing authorities to look the other way lest they become laughingstocks by using force against silliness.
In 1987 anti-regime banners were outlawed. Several Orange Alternative protestors had t-shirts with one Polish letter. When the militia was around, they would line up to say “Away with Heat”. When the militia left, one letter was removed and it would say “Away with Nightsticks”.
Another example was when the protestors were in Santa suits and all the European newspapers reported that 30 Santa Clauses had been arrested in Wroclaw.
One time they handed out toilet paper which was very hard to find. The militia was told to search bags and arrest anyone who was carrying toilet paper…not a popular thing to do. People who were not involved were even arrested.
I would have enjoyed coming up with these silly ideas! Wroclaw has a dwarf festival in September to commemorate the peaceful silliness of the Orange Alternative.
“In many ways, those days were friendlier because we were united by having only one enemy – communism.”
In the afternoon, we went to a 360° panorama depicting the Battle of Racławice of 1794. This monumental 114 meter long cycloramic painting was amazing. All the soldiers could be identified with lifelike features. (My brother Jeff would love this detailed military drawing as I remember his drawings from childhood.) Even the foreground morphed into the painting. Perhaps more fascinating is that they rolled it up prior to the WWII bombings and hid it safely away.
Later, we walked to another fountain light show. It was colorful and the moon was in the audience.