gnome hunting in poland

Our next stop was Wroclaw [pronounced approximately frot-suave], Poland! It is also called Breslau in German, so that’s what I called it for months until I finally learned the correct Polish pronunciation for the way it is also spelled in English! Basically, this part of the world is confusing because the borders have been drawn and re-drawn so many times and the names changed accordingly.

Anyway, Wroclaw is the hometown of Saints Hedwig and Edith Stein, as well as the Red Baron of World War I fame, and I was only vaguely aware of it until I started researching fun places to go when Daniel visited! He suggested Prague but as I’d been there twice, I offered Wroclaw as an alternative. And it paid off nicely.

We arrived in the late afternoon on Friday, withdrew 400 zloty (about 100 euros), and proceeded to have the most fun and cheapest weekend I’ve experienced in a while! My number one priority our first evening was to get my hands on some pierogies, and I had already found a restaurant entirely dedicated to the Polish dumplings of my childhood when we arrived… so we headed straight there! It was right on the main square so we were able to have a nice look around before our pierogie adventure.

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9 pierogies for about 5 Euros! We definitely could have settled for the “small” option rather than “large.” Of course, no pierogies come close to my Babi’s, but these also didn’t quite measure up to the pierogie platter I shared with Niki in Krakow.

Stuffed, we proceeded to wander around the square a bit. We saw the intricate and beautiful town hall and the colorful gabled houses surrounding the square.

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And we spotted our first gnome! Reportedly there are over 200 of these guys scattered around town, and even though we had read all about them (including the fact that they are “easy to overlook”), you really don’t know how many things “hidden in plain sight” you pass by if you just aren’t paying attention! So, we only found one on that first evening.

We also leisurely perused the market stalls offering various wares. I was mostly interested in the Polish amber jewelry. It really is incredibly gorgeous. And true to form, we tracked down a place to get our hands on some good beer. Our trusty tourist map led us to a place that served craft beer from Poland and around the world… we probably could have chosen better (Daniel didn’t like his and mine wasn’t quite what I expected either so we just switched, and lesson learned) but evening conversations over beers with my favorite guy are always welcome.

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The beers may have been stronger than we thought because as Daniel navigated us back to the hostel, we ended up walking twice as far as necessary and all the way back to the train station!!! But in the end, I think we needed the exercise to work off all those pierogies we’d eaten.

Day 2, as expected, was jam packed full of activity, so we started off early! We’d made it to the market square by 9… which was maybe a bit too early because almost nothing was open yet!! So we started off with a solid hour of gnome-searching, and were paid off handsomely now that we were actually paying attention:

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Daniel is one of the most competitive people I know, so I should have predicted that he would take the hidden gnomes as a very serious challenge. He was very driven the entire day to find more and more of them, and he took a picture of every single one we found! It kept me laughing all day… and before long I was sucked into the challenge, as well!

We saw the Church of Mary Magdelene (not super impressive and under construction) and walked past the University, which was indeed very beautiful, all the while looking for gnomes. There was a very charming professor gnome at the University, as well as some pretty buildings with shiny doors.

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Wroclaw is known for its bridges, given that the city is built on a series of several islands, so we crossed over to Sand Island, where we took a little river cruise!

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A view of Cathedral Island, and the cathedral itself, from the river

Crossing yet another bridge to Cathedral Island, we encountered this view, which I think is the most gorgeous in the whole city.

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The cathedral was beautiful, as well. It was great to be in Poland where the churches are plentiful and Catholic! I even spotted some priests (or seminarians) walking about town in cassocks… so cool!

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Soaking in the last day of the Month of Mary 

We wound our way back to the main square in search of some more Polish food. Of course I had to suggest kielbasa, which was being sold from carts on the square. The kielbasa was good, but I prefer eating it cold with horseradish, a Swaintek tradition that, when I informed Daniel of it, made him absolutely gag. Finally we were able to fill up the empty water bottle we’d been carrying around all day… the sun had finally come out as you can see from the pictures, and we were so dehydrated!!! And I ended up having a headache for the rest of the afternoon, which was just lovely…. We wound our way through the parts of the center square we hadn’t seen yet in search of more gnomes, and in addition we found a lovely little flower market.

Daniel got me this daisy which didn't cure my headache but it did brighten my day! :)

Daniel got me this daisy which didn’t cure my headache but it did brighten my day! 🙂

Next, we were finally able to go into the Basilica of St. Elizabeth. As we went inside, we saw that May 31 was a special day… the anniversary of its founding, and an opportunity to get a plenary indulgence by attending Mass there at the church! What a crazy coincidence. We scrambled to figure out how we could make it work… but all the Mass information and everything was written in Polish and my headache was getting worse and we had already both gotten a plenary indulgence the previous month at the canonization so we decided not to worry about it. Instead we decided to climb up the tower of the basilica to enjoy the view, an experience that would have admittedly been better were my head not pounding with every step! But hey… it cost like a Euro (gotta love Polish inflation?) and I got pictures like this:DSC05910So I don’t really regret it. However, our next stop was our hostel so I could take a nap and be in pain for about an hour until Daniel realized that he did in fact have a few ibuprofen tablets!!! My hero.

We had a very lovely dinner at a little café near the main square and, since we still had a good number of zloty left, we splurged: a cocktail and a dessert each!! We enjoyed one last walk around town, people watching and spotting a few more gnomes, bringing our total up to 36, I believe, by the time we left the next morning.

Even though Daniel and I haven’t seen each other this year as much as we obviously would have liked, it pays off nicely when we are able to spend time in exotic locations and eat fancy dinners and have new adventures together. This trip was especially special for me because in a way Poland is my “motherland”… I’m only half-Polish and I don’t speak the language but it’s the heritage I associate with the most, so it was nice to be able to spend some time there and introduce Daniel to the culture and the food a little bit. It was a lovely weekend… and we highly recommend Wroclaw!

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5 thoughts on “gnome hunting in poland

  1. Yay for sleeper cities! Gnomes in Poland. ..wouldn’t have guessed. In WI you guys can hunt……Frank Lloyd Wright structures? 🙂

    • Wroclaw is the EU Cultural Capital for 2016, so it’s on the rise! 🙂 Also it’s so near to Dresden that it had been on my radar a little bit before I started looking for somewhere to go.. .I just had no idea that “Breslau” was not in Germany!

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