Situated nearly 50-minute drive North from Weligama, Galle, once Sri Lanka’s main trading port and a trading hub for luxury goods including gems, ivory and spices, is steeped in culture and adventure and the Galle Fort is its pride and joy,
Initially built by Portuguese and then renovated and restructured by the Dutch, the Fort was a trusted enclave surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. Once a corner stone of Dutch administration and trade in colonial Ceylon, the fort has become a potpourri of cultures, languages and crafts today.
Most of its Dutch era buildings have now been converted into chic boutiques trading gems, jewellery, antiques and silk while the Old Dutch Hospital is now a restored dining and shopping complex, where people from the countries across the globe, wine, dine and trade with the locals just as they did a few centuries back.
The National Maritime Museum near the Old Gate of the Galle Fort is located in a renovated Old Dutch warehouse and is home to over 21 historical ship wrecks some as old as 800 years, as well as maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes.
The Dutch Reformed Church and All Saints Church at the Fort, which received an extensive facelift after the 2004 Tsunami, also carry the legacy of Dutch inhabitants of the Fort into the future. The Groote Kerk or the Dutch Reformed Church was built on the highest position of the Fort and showcases strong influence from the Doric architectural style while All Saint’s Church an Anglican church located within the Fort is a relatively new addition to the Fort composition made in the late 19th Century.
A bike ride or a walk through the Galle Fort is the best way to explore the labyrinth of streets that crisscross the Fort still carrying the names given to them centuries ago after the inhabitants of each street.