hidden europe 8

Gnome world

by Nicky Gardner


Gnomes of Europe arise! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. hidden europe checks out the sanctuaries where liberated gnomes, freed from enslavement to oppressive gardening cultures, can live in dignity and peace.

There are some roads that have their disturbing aspects. Heading back to Berlin recently from neighbouring Poland, our bus followed the main E30 through the marshy wetlands and forests that create a great wilderness in western Poland. This busy stretch of the E30 is not, it has to be admitted, one of Europe's more appealing highways. It cuts through a sparsely populated area, a region which the Poles call Lubuskie. Even in mid April, the forests along the way are silent places. Spring has not yet reached this landscape which still has the last relics of winter snow. There is the odd forest clearing and lay-by. Here and there Polish children offer bric-a-brac and painted eggs for sale. At intervals women stand scantily clad, alone or in pairs, awaiting the dubious business that the highway brings. Some are from Moldova or Ukraine, others from Russia, and some from the far flung republics of central Asia that slipped into social and economic turmoil as the Soviet Union faded into history.

And then there are the gnomes. Thousands of them, generally gathered together in great compounds adjacent to main road junctions or petrol stations.