Exploring a Dutch fort in colonial Galle, Sri Lanka
Hi everyone! I finally found some time to write again. And even better yet, it's about a new country! Sri Lanka, a beautiful South Asian island in the Indian Ocean. We loved every moment we spend in this country. The people are so kind, the landscapes so diverse and beautiful and the food... I honestly switched my favorite kitchen from Thai to Sri Lankan during my stay. Especially for vegetarians/vegans, the Sri Lankan kitchen is amazing. Choosing our meals was such an ease in Sri Lanka. Anyway, probably more about what we loved about Sri Lanka later. Let me show you some sweet spots in my forthcoming posts to give you a good impression of all the beauty Sri Lanka has to offer!
The beach near the lighthouse was pretty crowded because it was a holiday during our visit
Not a lot of (Dutch) people know that the city of Galle in Sri Lanka used to be a VOC trading post. Or even that Sri Lanka itself used to be a Dutch colony. I had no idea about the Galle part as well before I visited Sri Lanka. Of course, we heard about the place and people and guides told us to visit it. But only after I started reading about this beautiful and picturesque town, I found out about the colonial part. Want to know what Galle has to offer? Then read along.
Usual public bus interior
Galle is a pretty big city on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. But when people talk about Galle, almost everytime they mean the older part with the fortress. In the 17th century, the Dutch built a fort along the shores of Galle. Later Brittain took over Galle from the Dutch. Nowadays you will find all kinds of lovely shops, restaurants and others sights inside the fortress walls. The fortified part of Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means that everything needs to stay in its original state.
There are many accommodations to choose from in Galle, but most of them are more expensive than the average 'backpackers' price for accommodation in Sri Lanka. We stayed in nearby Hikkaduwa and took the bus to Galle for a day trip. It's just half an hour ride and really easy, you don't need to transfer or anything. The first thing you will notice is that you're definitely visiting a touristic place. People try to sell you tuk-tuk excursions that will show you all the highlights in the fort and in the new city as well. Even the guy from the 'independent' tourist office referred us to them. As far as we knew, the Galle Fort is quite small and can easily be explored on foot. So we left the tuk-tuks and went out on our own.
Inside the fortress the streets are quite picturesque, on the right the lighthouse
From the bus stop, it's a small walk uphill towards the fortress. It's a boring walk but you cannot go wrong. Just keep the stadium on your left. Once inside the fortress walls, you will be entertained with picturesque little streets full of little shops with handcraft souvenirs and clothing. As said, Galle is pretty touristic so prices are higher than usual in these shops. Galle also has some beautiful (Dutch) buildings. The ones you may not miss are:
- National Maritime Archaeology Museum with the old city gate (Queens Street)
- All Saints church (Church Street)
- Dutch hospital (nowadays full of boutique shops and restaurants)
- De Gereformeerde Hollandse kerk (Dutch church)
Left: the All Saints church. Right: the Gereformeerde Hollandse kerk
But of course, the main attraction is the fort itself. Together with the lighthouse and the clock tower. You can do a full circle walk around the fort which is around 4 km. If you don't want to walk such a distance, at least try to catch the highlights. Start on the southeastern side near the white lighthouse. From there you go clockwise with the ocean on the left. On the northwestern side of the fort, you will find the Galle Fort Clock Tower, at where you can end you walk. The fort is very well preserved and the walls are still really strong. They even slowed down a large part of the 2004 tsunami.
Galle Fort Clock Tower
Inside the fortress walls
If you have the chance you should watch the sunset from the walls of the fort and after that have dinner at one of the many restaurants Galle is rich in. We couldn't since we had to catch the bus back to Hikkaduwa on time. So you need to stay in the nearby surroundings (or have a car of your own).
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