When we arrive at Galle, I am curious: I have been here some 24 years before and wonder if I will still remember anything. We walk past the enormous cricket stadium, according to some the most picturesque in the world, through the new city gate which brings us through the thick city walls. After installing ourselves in an old VOC (Dutch East India Company) building, we return to the city gate, climb the walls, and walk the walls on the west side of the fort. At the north side, the walls are particularly thick: this is the only defence against invaders from the land. We find parapets mounted on high walls of several bastions (the Sun, Moon, and Star) overlooking the same cricket stadium. We see the busy city of modern Galle sprawling across the bay. But here, on the high walls, we only see a few other people, and hear the waves crashing against the rocks far below.
We see a group of Muslims with a backdrop of the All Saints church and a Buddhist stupa: Galle is a town of many religions. We see boys running and jumping up parts of the wall, and playing at the places where cannons were once defending the city. The walls are remarkably intact here. From the walls, we have good views of the streets in the fort, which is a living town with shops, bars, restaurants, and residential houses, many of which in old colonial buildings. At the south side of Galle fort, we see the lighthouse and a small beach near Utrecht bastion, and walk back to the west side for a red and pink sunset before walking the busy streets of town to pick a restaurant. I am up at sunrise the next morning for an exploration of the city. Despite the early hour, the streets are already busy, mostly with school kids in their immaculate uniforms, and people going to work. Soon enough, I find quiets streets as well, and enjoy the first rays of sunlight embellishing the monuments of the city.
There is the Dutch reformed church, or the Groote Kerk, whitewashed, still standing tall after all those years. Close to it, the All Saints church added later when the British took over. The National museum, housed in a colonnaded colonial building. The white, slender bell tower which is used for tsunami warnings. A big building currently housing the Maritime museum, in which I find the old city gate. Over it, I see the VOC emblem, with the cock as a symbol for Galle. When the Dutch took over Galle from the Portuguese in the mid-17th century, they greatly enhanced the fortifications, and surrounded the entire fort by a wall, also on the seaside of the peninsula. I walk through the old city gate, and find a marker that shows how high the water was at the 2004 tsunami: more than four metres. I try to visit the Zwarte Fort, or Black Fort, but it is closed, and a guard of a naval school lets me through anyway for a look at the small, old fort. Back inside the city walls, I pass the square with a huge banyan tree with the court of justice, the Akersloot bastion, and the old Dutch hospital which has been revived to a beautiful building with shops. At the seaside, I see an attractive small beach. I am close to the lighthouse again, and complete my walk around the fort on the west side. All the while, I am struggling to find memories of my earlier visit, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot manage to retrieve them. Fortunately, I now have fresh memories of a vibrant, attractive and overall well-maintained Galle fort.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Galle fort (Sri Lanka). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Galle fort. Read more about this site.