Wrocław is located in the far western part of Poland. Over the centuries, it has been part of the original Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the House of Hapsburg, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire and Nazi Germany. In the first half of the 14th century, this city became known as Breslau. At the end of WWII, the city returned to Poland and once again became Wrocław.
How is “Wrocław” pronounced?
A quick aside before we get to the photos: how is “Wrocław” pronounced? For non-Polish speakers, like me, the spelling can be a bit confusing. It’s actually pronounced VRAWHT-swahf. The “ł” is pronounced like the English language “w.”
The Christmas Market
Wrocław was the second of three cities we visited on our week-long Christmas Market tour. It’s Old Town is quite charming and, in our opinion, the Christmas Market was clearly the best of the trip.
The Revolting Dwarves of Wrocław and the Orange Alternative
It’s so easy to get caught up admiring the beautiful architecture and the Christmas Market that you forget to look down. But if you don’t look down, you’ll miss the little people: the dwarves of Wrocław.
Are the dwarves really “revolting”?
They’re fun, charming, cheeky and plentiful. But are they “revolting”? Only in the sense that they commemorate protests that helped lead to the Revolutions of 1989.
Beginning in 1982, the Orange Alternative began protesting against Poland’s communist regime. Their method of protest was ridicule. When the communist regime painted over anti-government slogans on walls and building, the Orange Alternative would then paint graffiti and dwarves on top of the regime’s paint.
The Orange Alternative’s graffiti and dwarves were non-ideological and humorous. They used slogans such as, “There is no freedom without dwarves,” “Every militiaman is a piece of Art” and “Citizen, help the militia, beat yourself up.”
Later that decade, the Orange Alternative organized street events, such as the Revolution of Dwarves, when more than 10,000 people wearing orange dwarf hats marched through the center of Wrocław.
Commemorating the Orange Alternative with a dwarf
In 2001, the city commemorated the Orange Alternative’s resistance efforts by installing a bronze dwarf, fashioned after the movement’s original dwarf symbol, near the rynek. In 2005, a local sculptor proposed creating more dwarves, each representing a single part of Wrocław’s history or daily life. Today, there are over 400 dwarves.
It is possible to design and install new dwarves. But in order to make a new dwarf that honors the resistance to the past government, you have to get permission from the current government.
Celebrating the dwarves with a map and a festival
Today, the dwarves are a major tourist attraction and it’s easy to see why these cheeky little folks are so popular. For the DIYer, there is a map showing all the locations of the dwarves. Or, for the more crowd-oriented, in September there is the Wrocław Dwarf Festival.
Wrocław, full of Christmas spirit
Wrocław’s Christmas Market was clearly the best Christmas Market we visited in Poland (at least in 2018). We only had two nights and one day there, but we were smitten. With a longer visit, we could’ve seen Santa’s arrival, the official illumination of the Christmas tree, the Christmas Parade and the Parade of Wrocław Elves.
I guess we’ll just have to go back again.