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Mar 13 2015

The Fencer Fountain & Gnomes of Wroclaw

If you’ve heard about Wroclaw (pronounced Vroswav), you’ll probably know about the gnomes that inhabit the city.  I found out about them from a friend in the UK.  She knows I like quirky things, and thought it would be right up my street.  She was right, of course.  So, having been there and being as it is Friday, it’s time to feature one of these cute little guys from Wroclaw.  Here it is…
The Fencer Fountain & Gnomes of WroclawWhen I first arrived in Wroclaw, it was dark, so it wasn’t until the next day that I could explore the city and go gnome-hunting.  A member of staff at the hostel I was staying at told me about a free walking tour, and gave me a map of the city.  The map of the city was great for two reasons.  Firstly, I could navigate the city more easily.  Secondly, the location of the gnomes were marked on the map.  I had read that I would need a special map, but that obviously isn’t the case anymore.

Having been dumped partway through a walking tour I had paid for in Berlin, I tend to opt for the free ones now.  So, the following morning, I decided to take advantage of the free walking tour, which started at the Aleksander Fredro monument in the Main Market Square, and go gnome-hunting later.

The gnome-hunting idea went out the window when I found out that there are over 300 of these little guys all over the city.  During my time in Wroclaw, I saw loads of them, so I was satisfied and didn’t feel the need to find all of them.  They’re a great addition to the city, not just because they are so cute, which they are, but because they are a reminder of the country’s history.

It all started with just one gnome (or dwarf, as the guide referred to them) in 2001, which was sculpted to commemorate the Orange Alternative, an underground protest movement that began in Wroclaw in the 1980s as part of the Solidarity moment.  They protested peacefully, but in unusual ways.  It started with graffiti.  They would paint pictures of dwarves where police had covered up anti-regime slogans on the walls of cities around Poland.  There were about a thousand in all, apparently.

During the walking tour, we stopped at University Square where the Fencer Fountain is located.  The guide told us the statue was designed by the Professor of the Academy of Fine Art in Berlin in 1904.  He had studied at that university, and, as the story goes, he got drunk one night, and lost all his clothes in a card game after he had lost all his money.  I’m not completely sure how the sword comes into the story because I can’t remember what the guide said.  I was probably taking photos at the time, and the stories online aren’t consistent.  To be honest, it doesn’t matter.  This was the professor’s way of trying to get students to learn from his mistake.  Whether the students take any notice of its message is irrelevant.  It has become a icon of the city.

As you can see from the photo, someone added a gnome near the statue at some point.  It has the same pose as the main statue, but rather than having a sword, it has an umbrella.  I wouldn’t have seen it, if our tour guide hadn’t pointed it out.  So, this photo gives you a slightly different, more quirky perspective of the Fencer Fountain.


I was travelling from Poznan back to Krakow, and stopped off at Wroclaw on the way.  It has great transport links whether you go by train, bus, or car.

Once you’re there, it’s easy enough to walk around Wroclaw.

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Are you thinking of visiting Wroclaw?  Which is your favourite gnome?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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