A Dutch legacy – Galle
A visit to Galle means you must stop by its historical Fort. Crowned as the highlight of the city, the world heritage site dated at 17th Century is a quaint and serendipitous place not to be missed. Hit the Southern expressway and you are there in one hour. Here are our top 10 things to do at the Galle Fort.
Refuel at the Fort eateries
Traipsing down the maze of alleys and streets can make you work up an appetite. Thankfully there are many places to stop for a bite. Stop by Tea Breeze for some snack-worthy palatables and savor some specialty teas. Sink down on a plush sofa chair and cool off with a misty glass of ice tea. You can also head to the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct. Chill with Il Gelato ice cream with a variety of flavours at Galle Fort.
Delve into the past
While the architecture of the Fort buildings itself stir up a strong beckoning of the past, the two museums at the premises give history buffs a chance to delve further into a colonial era and an inherent local culture. Located down Church Street is the Galle National Museum housed in a charming colonnaded Dutch building, built in 1656. It showcases some of Galle’s famed cottage industries. Travel leagues under the sea to make some intriguing discoveries of fascinating shipwrecks and recoveries at the Maritime Archaeology Museum down Queen’s street, the only one in the country.
How they make them sparkle
There are a number of jewellery shops scattered throughout the Fort precinct and some of these stores while showcasing their finest in glassy displays, also preserve the age-old tradition of handmade jewellery. Walk over to the workshops to find artisans handcrafting jewellery pieces from scratch busily melding, moulding, carving and polishing. You will find the Colombo Jewellery Stores, Ayura, Careem Jewellers, Starline – Wimaladharma Brothers and Treasure Chest offering an extensive variety of jewellery. What’s more they are ever-ready to share the story of their roots and how everything works. Some of them have been in the industry for 30-40 years shouldering on a family tradition passed down from father to son.
Pick up a souvenir or gift
There are a host of shops to pick out from an eye-catching range of gifts and souvenirs. At the junction of Pedlar Street and Church Street is Barefoot that has many things handloom from wall hangings and bags to notebooks and toys, dressed up in a palette of vibrant colours. Luv SL, the souvenir and accessories store of Odel is located further down Pedlar Street and has a mishmash of attractive items imbued with a distinct local flavour. Mugs, fridge magnets, key tags and jewellery boxes are among the choices for mementoes that fill the shelves of this little boutique.
The Dutch Reformed Church
Escape from the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun, and step into the cool interior of the Dutch Reformed Church for a dose of history and colonial architecture. Built in 1755 on the highest point of the Fort, the Church has many interesting aspects including an impressive gable, stained glass windows, a burial chamber, a pulpit of calamander wood and a floor paved with inscribed gravestones.
A backdrop of architectural façades or paved alleyways and boulevards or breathtaking views from the ramparts, the Fort is very much a photo buffs’ paradise. The highlight would be the seaside boundary with views of the ocean and the lighthouse in the distance. Do not forget to admire the Meeran Jumma Mosque, Dutch Reformed Church, Dutch Warehouse and restored Dutch gate.
Watch the divers
At the Fort ramparts there are few daredevil youngsters taking treacherous leaps from the Flag Rock. You can find them early in the morning till late afternoon showing off their particular skill of plummeting with glee down a 35-foot drop to the rocky waters below!
Find the breadfruit tree
What’s so special about a breadfruit tree? The one at Galle Fort is believed to be the very first of its kind in the Island. The tree was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Dutch and to this day stands at the Akersloot Bastion.
Reviving the dying art of beeralu or bobbin lace making, Fort is where a handful of lace-makers keep one of the city’s traditional crafts alive. At the premises of stores that sell their carefully crafted delicate products, you can visit these artisans deftly weaving threads to lace.
Watch the sunset
At the end of a long day at the Dutch Fort don’t miss the sunset at Flag Rock where many assemble to view the spectacle. Another reason to pull out you camera, the sunset at the oceanic horizon is a breathtaking one. What better way to end a tour at the Fort.