Lost in Galle

Thick wall of the Galle Fort, which protects the town since the 17th century and also kept the old town safe from the tsunami in 2004. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Thick wall of the Galle Fort, which protects the town since the 17th century and also kept the old town safe from the tsunami in 2004. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Galle (pronounced gaar-le in Singhala) is a lovely little town in the south of Sri Lanka, just 1.5 hours by car from Colombo. It is famous for a wonderful collection of Dutch colonial buildings in the Fort area, which emerges like a European city in the middle of the tropics. Walking around in the old town amid salty air from the Indian Ocean, you will be surprised by the architectural heritage at every corner you turn.

Built in 1588 by the Portuguese first and later extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century, Galle was the main port for Sri Lanka for more than 200 years. It was an important stop for boats and ships en route between Europe and Asia, before commercial interests were shifted to Colombo in the British era. You can still see the evidence of its glorious maritime past at many corners in the old town.

One of gigantic anchors located along the old wall near the National Maritime Museum, with the Bell Tower in the background. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

One of gigantic anchors located along the old wall near the National Maritime Museum, with the Bell Tower in the background. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Old Gate of Galle, with the inscription “VOC” (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie – Dutch East India Company), dating back to 1669. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Old Gate of Galle, with the inscription “VOC” (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie – Dutch East India Company), dating back to 1669. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

“Clan House”, Old Lloyd’s Office, dated back to 19th century. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

“Clan House”, Old Lloyd’s Office, dating back to 19th century. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

The Fort area is home to about 400 houses, churches, mosques and temples as well as many old commercial and government buildings. In 1988, it is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries”.

Old building of the Dutch Hospital, which is no longer in use. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Old building of the Dutch Hospital, which is no longer in use. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

An old house dating from 1887 in the Fort area. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

An old house dating from 1887 in the Fort area. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Apart from its colorful history and enchanting architectural heritage, Galle also has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population: Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. Within an area of just 0.36 square meter, you can find several religious sites located far from each other within walking distance.  

Sudharmalaya Vihara, a Buddhist temple in the Fort area. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Sudharmalaya Vihara, a Buddhist temple in the Fort area. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Meera Masjid, an impressive mosque built in 1904 with influence of Western architecture. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Meera Masjid, an impressive mosque built in 1904 with influence of Western architecture. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Dutch Reformed Church, dating from 1752/1755. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Dutch Reformed Church, dating from 1752/1755. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

One of the most pleasant strolls you can take in the old town is the circuit along the top of the Fort Wall at sunset. The walk can be completed within an hour or two. You will be greeted by local people, who love to come for a walk after the day heat subsided.

Moon Bastion of the Fort Wall at dusk. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

Moon Bastion of the Fort Wall at dusk. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

With its old colonial building dotted along wide cobblestone streets and its location close to other beach towns in Southern Sri Lanka, it is no wonder that Galle has become a popular tourist destination. The Fort area is full of beautiful boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops and art galleries. Yet, you can feel the local charm through the local community, which has been living and working there for several centuries. The Fort area is therefore a living cultural heritage.

A local vendor cycling past the bright-colored wall of the National Maritime Museum. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

A local vendor cycling past the bright-colored wall of the National Maritime Museum. Galle, Sri Lanka, December 2012.

It is one of a few places that you can get lost in time without feeling lost. A place where you can put down the map, stroll aimlessly and make your own discoveries as you go.

Advertisements

One thought on “Lost in Galle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s