Galle is an amazing town, the old city is inside the remains of an old Dutch Fort entered via one of two gates in the wall. After the bombings security has been stepped up and all who enter need to show papers to the military, it’s both unsettling and reassuring at the same time.
We’re staying at the Fort Printers hotel, a magnificent old building that as the name suggests we the print works for the fort. The main building is over 400 years old and has exterior wall almost a metre thick. The only downside is that the wooden floors definitely don’t allow and quiet movement at night, they squeak and creek quite loudly.
The origins of the Galle Fort lie in a storm that happened 500 years ago when a Portuguese ship blew off course and landed in Galle harbor. The Portuguese founded the permanent settlement which the Dutch built into a fortified city starting in 1663. The British took over control of Galle and preserved the present day Galle Fort. It is the finest example of a preserved European fort and is a living microcosm of Sri Lankan history and culture.
Many stormy centuries later, the Fort is now designated an UNESCO World Heritage site. Moorish traders, Portuguese adventurers, Dutch merchants and English colonialists have all left their legacies and thereby contributed to its unique character and history.
These days, the Galle Fort is a warm and breezy place, some streets bustling in the morning, but the afternoons and evenings are quite and serene. The coral lime, stone and stucco wall form its bastions and ramparts serve to protect the approximately 400 buildings inside it from the world outside, as it did on the 26th December 2004 when the tsunami broke through the lower gates of the Fort. The waves flowed out again very quickly and left no major structural damage.
Traders and colonialists have given way to an interesting mix of different cultures and religions: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Sinhalese and Tamils live congenially side by side with a growing number of Europeans and Westerners looking to be a part of Galle’s community.
The bells and chants of the respective religious rites mingle peacefully at various times of the day. The narrow streets of the Fort are lined with colonial buildings, each with a unique history. It’s amazing to wander these streets and take in this heady mix of cultures, it’s such a shame that we have so little time here, could easily spend a few days wandering not just the old town but the busy streets outside these calming walls.
From the top of the fortified ramparts we were able to look at out Galle Cricket Stadium and watch a few overs of a match. Great view from up here, couldn’t quite see the scoreboard though.
Later we found a quiet bar and settled back for a few well earned cold drinks before once more climbing the ramparts to watch the sun go down as the waves pounded the rocks below.
Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up, we had hoped that being on the coast it would be slightly cooler (wrong!). Then after consulting Google and the hotel guide book it was off to dinner, our first option was not quite what we had hoped for. We ordered drinks and garlic while we looked at rest of the menu. Have to say menu left a bit to be desired and the garlic bread was unbelievable, slices of white bread slathered in garlic, it’s almost 12 hours since we had it and I can still taste the garlic.
The curfew still being in place we left and wandered back, looking at options, many places were already starting to close up as few people are out and about. Seeing this we headed back to The Fort Printers and had the most amazing meal right under the very roof we’re staying under, didn’t have to go out after all.