I think the fact I’ve travelled to a Polish city primarily because there’s 212 little bronze gnomes to trip up over is a sign it’s perhaps time I go home.
The city is called Wroclaw, though not pronounced phonetically like ‘Rock Law,’ but I find saying ‘Fox Glove’ – as in one of my favourite Wellington bars – quickly, avoiding eye contact and with a severe mumble does the trick.
As for why there’s gnomes everywhere – according to the back of my tourist map it stems from a 1980’s anti-communist protest where some locals dressed up as gnomes and ran around the city.
I don’t like doing things by halves, so my plan was to buy a gnome map and go in search of all 212 of the little guys.
Problem is I can’t read a map and the sideways rain destroyed my umbrella – so I gave up after about 30.
Luckily Wroclaw does have more going for it than just gnomes, including possibly my favourite piece of street art in Europe so far – depicting a group of pedestrians getting swallowed up by the pavement…
Though the joys of hostel life mean you have no control over who you share a room with, in my case two obese American guys who loved listening to Sean Paul’s ‘got to love ya’ at breakfast and one who had a knack of turning every conversation into a political tirade of – ‘f*!# the Government, f*#% the system.’
Considering my previous occupation it was a conversation I did well to avoid.
Luckily there were some cool travel buddies to balance them out, including a fellow solo female backpacker I first met on my battery farm hen night-train from Budapest to Krakow and then again on a walking tour of the city.
We finally hung out properly, bonding over a broccoli casserole at a Polish restaurant for a fellow dorm buddies’ birthday.
Given I spent my birthday this year eating cream cake that tasted like shaving foam while sitting on a Vietnamese night train bed which bore some previous traveller’s pubic hair, I made it my mission to make sure Steve from Brisbane had a better run of it – ordering him a surprise obligatory piece of cake with candle.
Luckily shortly before the cake arrived I remembered to ask his name, otherwise the Happy Birthday dear ….. (random guy from my hostel I’ve just met but feel sorry for because you’re alone on your birthday) would have been quite awkward.
My second night was also spent in the company of Steve from Brisbane, walking around a graveyard rubbernecking All Saints’ Day – a Polish public holiday where locals’ pay homage to their loved ones by covering their graves with flowers and lanterns.
It was a beautiful sight and one tradition I think we should adopt in New Zealand.
I left Wroclaw extremely early the next morning satisfied I’d seen my fair share of gnomes but still looking for my pot of gold, given my current one is fast drying up.
And on that note… if anyone wants to employ a washed up journo and PR hack who hasn’t had a real job in bang on a year, I’m listening…