Don’t mind the dwarf on a pigeon sitting on a ledge of Spiż Restaurant in Wroclaw’s Market Square, getting grumpy. Before the Internet and text messaging he was the oh-so-awaited messenger around the world. Today he just ponders the old times sipping beer at the Spiż. He wonders: how did the practice of bitter beer drinking outlast the ancient tradition of caring messages by pigeons? It was his inheritance, trade, passion and dignity. All but a history today, it is a bitter truth for him indeed!
Pigeons always knew how to fly home.
Thanks to this skill they were proven to be effective as massage carriers already by ancient Persian. Over 2000 years ago, the Romans also used pigeon messengers to aid their military. Even the Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic games to their various cities by pigeons.
By the 12th century merchants, traders and travelers used messenger pigeons throughout Europe as a regular postal service. They were also great in military situations, indispensable in a siege or for naval purposes, sending messages from ships out in stormy waters. Various governments established whole systems of military communication by pigeon posts.
Still in the 19th century, before the telegraph was invented, pigeons were often considered as ways of sending messages amongst stockbrokers and financiers.
The pigeons were transported to a destination in cages. Before releasing there would be messages attached to them. Typically a small rolls of paper stored in a tiny glass or metal tube. Once the message was attached, the pigeon would fly home, thus delivering it and skipping over rough terrain, traffic, dishonesty, and human error.
In Medieval Europe, when the dwarfs were introduced to the craft the service became even more effective. Entire families of dwarfs became renown Pigeon Keepers. They could ride the pigeons to the destination away from home, skipping the often more dangerous pigeons-in-the-cage part of the process. Also, being more aware of human plots and traps, dwarfs steered away from many dangerous situations unforeseen by the birds on the way home.
The only problem was – many humans did not believe in dwarfs. But that was basically that: the unbeliever’s problem.
The Pigeon Keeper in Wroclaw comes from a family with history and traditions. His ancestors were essential aspects of politics, diplomacy and military actions throughout the Europe and West Asia. The pigeons they trained were used to carry messages during wars and peaceful times. The whole clan was respected and appreciated.
And today? He is still loved by all the pigeons around. They come swarming the Market Place, because they know he will never tire of cleaning their wings if a piece of bubble gum gets stuck to them, or their paws get tangled in plastic bags, ribbons and other human debris. They say he also tells them many unbelievable stories from long ago. But humans never spoke pigeon, so that might be just a fairy-tale...
If you visit him, please, use rather your camera than a phone to take a picture. He’s smart. He knows about the Internet. He knows that through your phone you can send his picture as a message across the globe in a seconds... And please, never text standing right in front of him. It really does hurt his feelings.
If you will not find him on the ledge, look above. There might be a pigeon sitting on a head of one of the brewers sculpted over the entrance to the Spiż Restaurant. Chances are that his rider sneaked again for another pint of Dark Caramel.
My friend, ZuzAnna treated me to that caramel beer at Spiż. It was cold and smooth. They brew it in the pub, right in the basement cellar of the old Town Hall. Which is very special. We enjoyed it outside because the weather was great, and it was fun to watch the street artists and musicians on the Market Square. And the pigeons, they make their own music! Even though nobody can understand a word of their songs.
The beer was gone and suddenly the pigeons flew away, and I swear I saw the Pigeon Keeper puling his hat very bad-temperedly even more over his eyes... there was a drone hovering above us. Taking pictures? Delivering something?
Times change inevitably.
I mentioned Spiż Restaurant and Brewery without their knowledge or any incentives from them. The beer was ACTUALLY really good.
You cannot miss the St. Elisabeth Church in Wroclaw. It is one of the oldest churches there, and the tallest building in the Old Town area. Contrasting the church’s high tower there are two little houses framing the south corner of its backyard. They are connected by an arch, which in the Middle Ages crowned a gate to a cemetery.
In those times, thanks to skills and toil of local tradesmen, the city was prosperous, but dominated by the merchant class, which controlled the Town Council. By ruthless regulations the merchants took advantage of the hard-working guilds. It led to rebellion in 1418, when butchers and textile workers stormed the Town Hall. They beheaded the mayor, most of his advisers, even defenestrated one who was trying to take refuge in a tower.
The new order did not last long. Unfortunately for the rebels, two years later the Holy Roman Emperor was in town preparing his soldiers to launch a crusade against Bohemia, and got personally involved in the dispute. Thus, most of the guild leaders were banned from town and over twenty of them executed. The backyard of St. Elisabeth’s Church became their resting place.
People believed that the “rebels” fought for truth and righteousness, and in the memory of the events a sign was carved on the flagstone above the cemetery gate.
It is still there. It reads in Latin: MORS JANUA VITAE – Death is the Gate to Life.
Much of the area was destroyed by World War II, but after the war the people of Wroclaw decided to restore the Old Town, and the two little houses. Joined by an arch the houses reminded everyone of two children holding hands, so they were named: Jaś i Małgosia, the Polish names for Hänsel and Gretel. In English Małgosia translates to Little Margaret.
Now you know why I always felt special about this spot!
Today it is a lively corner of the Old Town Market Square and Małgosia houses the headquarters of the Wroclaw Lovers Association. The Association promotes the city, welcomes visitors, sells souvenirs and organizes guided tours around the town and vicinity. Therefore, to no surprise, right at the entrance to Malgosia's store, you can meet one of the city greatest admirers, a dwarf who does not want to be known by any other name but WrocLover. A happy and loving fellow, WrocLover has buddies all over the world and tells everywhere that Wroclaw is the friendliest place for dwarfs and people alike. Rumor has it, he convinced the dwarfs to move into the city to begin with. He welcomes all with a great smile and golden heart with the city emblem held high in his hand.
And of course, the backyard behind him is swarming with enjoyment and laughter. It is a meeting place for bikers, tourists resting in a local craft beer garden, and children searching for (and finding!) more of the city dwarfs.
I walked through the passage under the arch taking pictures. Caught in the camera intent stare of a handsome biker. Was he offended by being photographed, or wanted to ask if I’d like a close-up of his oh-so-shiny vehicle? I did not bother to check. Moving the lens quickly sideways I saw a glimpse of a strange shape; like a kneeling cross or a martyr-like figure, decapitated and yet holding up strait. Did someone but me remembered in the midst of this place of fun the rebellion from over six hundred years ago!? I came closer and red a sign on the ground:
Born February 4th 1906 in Wrocław
Evangelical Pastor and Theologian
Member of the German Resistance to National Socialists
Forerunner of Ecumenism, Christian Martyr
Murdered in Flossenburg Concentration Camp
April 9th 1945
This buoyant city square remembered one more rebel!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest theologian of the last century, known for his courage, integrity and moral strength in the face of evil, was born in Wroclaw, and I was standing in front of his memorial. His book The Cost of Discipleship became a classic, and his writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential.
The National Socialist was a mouthful to many, so if you are in doubt, there is a shorter version often used: the Nazis. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his opposition to the Nazi dictatorship, including condemnation of Hitler's euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo he was imprisoned for more than a year, and finally after being associated with the plot to Hitler’s assassination, executed by hanging. He died but a two weeks before the regime collapsed and the Flossenburg camp was liberated.
His death was yet another the gate to Life...
It takes many rebels to build a city filed with so much laughter and love.
Love conquers all!
In a city called Wrocław humans coexist with dwarfs. They call them "Krasnale".
Krasnal Luminator is my favorite.
He works with a human company called Tauron which delivers energy to the region. Everybody knows that Luminator works diligently to make sure that all dwarfs have access to electricity and gas. But if you get to know him better, you'll se that Luminator does way more than that.
Dwarfs, you see, are very old-school, and they reluctantly look into any innovations or progress. Not him! Luminator is very open-minded, and highly knowledgeable of the technological world. To stay up-to-date he works tirelessly on his little laptop. He uses sunshine throughout the day, and turns on his little lamp to continue working after the sun goes down. Nobody knows when he sleeps. No one ever saw him to leave his little laptop and rest. But rumor has it every so often he vanishes...
They say the ramp he sits on hides a little electric Dwarf-Mobile he uses to travel throughout Wrocław and take pictures. They say he loves the City and loves taking pictures. They say he has a secret file on his Laptop with thousands of best pictures taken in Wroclaw ever! I hope, one day he will publish them. For now, the few pictures I took of him, are my little keepsake.
is a graphic designer and photography enthusiast.
is my little mascot! It is the most innovative, and techy dwarf ever known. He lives in a city called Wrocław, where dwarfs coexist with humans. Rumor has it he also likes taking pictures.
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