One of Wrocław’s most popular, memorable and iconic attractions is not a cathedral, not a castle or monument, but a legion of little people: Gnomes, or ‘krasnale’ (in local parlance), to be precise. In Wrocław’s city centre these merry munchkins are simply ubiquitous - dotting doorways, alleyways and street corners; constantly underfoot but only seen by the observant. You may well overlook the first dozen or so that cross your path, but inevitably – and often literally - you will stumble upon these popular local residents. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re bound to notice the little fellas engaged in a variety of activities about town – from guarding public space to passed-out drunk. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, and the object of more photos than the towering Cathedral, these prolific pranksters have become the unlikely symbol of one of PL’s most picturesque cities.
Although it sounds like little more than a twee tourist gimmick, gnomes have long held a place in Polish folklore, and their current iconic incarnation as symbols of Wrocław actually has a direct correlation to the political climate of the 1980s. Under communism gnomes became the absurdist calling card of the 'Orange Alternative' movement – an underground protest movement that used absurdity and nonsense to stage peaceful, yet subversive protests.