Galle Fort: 400 years worth of tales

After much planning and alterations, we decided to cut our trip short to 2 days in Galle with a one night stay at Light House Hotel. The plan was to get to Galle as early as possible, explore the Fort and head to the hotel before dinner. And we did. We managed to get out of the house early and got to the Fort by around 9.30am.

The Galle Fort which was originally built by the Portuguese and modified by the Dutch during the 17th century invasion is still in great condition after 400 years of existence and is among those listed in the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Like most forts in Sri Lanka, it is built on a peninsula–like area and is located between the land area and the sea.

When you enter the fort and if you are travelling in your private vehicle, parking may seem a main concern at first. However, since many tourists visit the area (local and foreign alike) parking seemed quite safe along the road side which is exactly what we ended up doing and by the end of our visit, the car was still intact. We made sure we travelled light with essentials such as, a bottle of water, snacks, facial tissues or towels (since Sri Lanka is hot and humid) and of course T’s camera equipment. [It should be also noted that a pen and a notebook may come in handy.]

We started off with the rampart. The rampart of a fort (for those who are unfamiliar with the term), is “a broad embankment raised as a fortification and usually surmounted by a parapet” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). We passed the clock tower near the rampart which was built in the late 1800s and soon were discussing politics over that simple monument. The view of the city of Galle and its infamous cricket grounds from the front end of the rampart as well as the view of the sea from all corners, is breath-taking. T had started clicking away almost as soon as we got to the rampart and I spent much time admiring the ocean. Although I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the sea I think the love towards it always overpowered the latter. We decided to walk along the rampart before walking the streets of the fort and were in for some treats such as cannon mounts, friendly locals and the cutest and friendliest of stray dogs. 😀

Soon we had made it to the rear end of the rampart where a series of steps carved into the rock gives access to the sea. Although from the top of the rampart the beach area looks heavenly, this is not really the case. I advice whoever who wants to go down to this beach area, to wear shoes or slippers at all times because there is so much rubble including broken pieces of seashells as well as glass which could seriously injure you. However, one of the better reasons for going down to this beach area is that you can find so many tiny hermit crabs and other creatures scurrying along the beach. It is also said that the sea adjacent to the fort is supposedly scattered with numerous shipwrecks in case you’d like to go scuba diving.

The next attraction at the rear end of the rampart is the “Fort Jumpers”: a couple of cliff jumpers who jump off the Dutch Fort and into the sea for a couple of bucks. T thought it was a crazy idea and didn’t want to encourage such behaviour which would risk someone’s life for our entertainment (Yes, he can be a spoil sport at times). During my previous visit to the fort, my friend and I had paid them 200 rupees to jump into a small and deeper area in the sea which was surrounded by rocks. I now understand what T meant by risking someone else’s life for our entertainment but these guys were so used to it and the ocean seemed like their second home.

Right next to the cliff jumpers is the light house which was being renovated when we came up to it. Here, we were approached by local guides who thought we were Indian tourists. It was T’s heavy camera equipment that made them think that way (As well as his bright, white pair of sneakers – lol). The rampart beyond the light house cannot be accessed due to the wilderness and narrower routes so we decided to “hit the streets” of the Fort. This is when our hunger got the best of us and had to yield to it.

Lunch was at a small joint called Mama’s Cafe which I had once been to. The owner had been hospitable and the prices were decent and the food was great the previous time so we decided to settle with the same. Just before lunch I had a tall glassful of sweet king coconut juice and T ended up having a whole pot of tea which helped to re-hydrate ourselves before we settled with our Rice and Curry which was good despite some minor setbacks. However, there are many other food joints with local delicacies and great hospitality scattered all over the fort in case you’re a food enthusiast.

After lunch our day consisted of a lot of walking in and around the Galle Fort for sight-seeing especially the museums. We visited the Maritime Museum which was accentuated with fibreglass sea creatures and models of various catamarans etc. The other museum we visited was the National Cultural Museum which was less attractive compared to that of the Maritime Museum. However, it should be noted that a visit to the Dutch Museum is worth a go if you have time as it contains paintings, prints, documents, furniture and various other artefacts from the colonial era. All museums have an entrance fee (separate for locals and foreigners) and and extra fee is charged if you want to take pictures of the artefacts etc., and a higher fee for videoing.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Dutch Reformed Church on Church Street which was built in the 1700s and houses Dutch gravestones within the church as well as in the churchyard. The floor of the church is made up of not marble or tiles, but of gravestones which is eerie and at the same time fascinating.

It is highly unlikely that a person will be able to cover the entire fort within a single day as it hosts many places worth visiting including boutique hotels, food joints, antique shops etc. The streets of the Galle fort creates a paradox with its blend of hustle and bustle as well as serenity depending on which street you are in. This ultimately ensures that the traveller never gets bored. More information on the Galle Fort can be found here for those who are interested in visiting the area.

Summary of our visit:
A visit to the Fort is a MUST if you decide to go to Galle. (Even better if you’re a history buff) There are a couple of museums, churches, boutique hotels and shops that sell antiques as well as local delicacies which are worth having a look at. A walk around the Fort will leave you wanting to come back every time you visit Galle; Guaranteed! However, make sure you have sunblock if you have sensitive skin or you are conscious about getting darker and make sure you wear a good pair of shoes because there’s a lot of walking to do. There is bottled water widely available and the people are friendly and hospitable in case you get lost or need any type of assistance.


~ by travellingtwosome on April 11, 2010.

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