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Sri Lanka: Galle fort

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Galle fort > Sri Lanka > Asia

[Visited: July 1995, March 2019]

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.

Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The north side of Galle fort is heavily defended as it is the only access from land

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.

Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): Old Dutch hospital with small beach at the east side of Galle

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.

Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The National Museum is housed in one of the many colonial buildings in Galle
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): Looking up the whitewashed Dutch reformed church building
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The white Meeran Jumma mosque near the Utrecht bastion at the southeast side of Galle
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The west side of Galle fort with walls rising high above the ocean
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The fort of Galle at the northeast side
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The Dutch East India Company emblem sculpted above the old city gate of Galle
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The southside of Galle with the lighthouse and fort wall
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): View over Galle from the west side
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): Building on the northeast side of Galle, with the old city gate and housing the Maritime museum
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The walls of the small Zwarte Fort, or Black Fort
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): Street with stupa and church in the background
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): The western walls of Galle fort are so wide you could drive them
Picture of Galle fort (Sri Lanka): Bell used to warn for tsunamis

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