BlogThe happening heart of cosmopolitan Galle 1.0 | SLCB

May 13, 2021by Ajantha Lakmal0

Galle, is a 52 hectare rocky peninsula at the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. Its existence traces back to Ptolemy’s world map of 125 to 150 AD, when it was a busy trading port for Greece, China, Arabian countries, India and others. Becoming a 16th century Portuguese colony, a 17 century Dutch fortress transpiring in to an 18 century British military base, over a 400 year European rule Galle has emerged, home to a unique potpourri of multi-national, multi-ethnic and multi-religious population of 93.118 by the year 2020.

Where is Galle?

Drive down south, a 113 kilometres from Colombo, in just about 60 minutes along the beautiful coastal highway, parallel to some of the world’s best beaches in Sri Lanka, you can reach Galle.

What attracts are there in close proximity

Closer to Galle, you will discover splendid beaches, turtle hatcheries, trekking grounds, legendary hills that rise from the sea, lush rainforests urging you on a memorable wildlife safari, Ceylon Cinnamon plantations and White-tea estates inviting you on a sightseeing tour, winding up with tea and love cake. A mountain of attractions make Galle an extraordinary must-visit site on your itinerary.

Galle Fort

When you enter this city, it infuses a magical flavour and flamboyance different from the rest of Sri Lanka. Today, Galle remains a resplendently preserved Dutch Fort with multi-cultural influences are around every corner, testament to a diverse heritage Take The Full Experience Exploring the evolution of the fort through colonization and trading routes, with its enchanting old world charm, taking us through appealing cobblestone city streets to another land, of another time understand why the fort was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1988. The ambience and soul of charming rustic authenticity of cosmopolitan Galle is the draw for multitudes of global literary celebrities and tourists like you.

Galle Fort literally wears 400 years of historic landmarks of splendor, on its sleeve. Today it is an exceptional UNESCO Heritage site, inundated with foreign visitors who come to discover and experience the mystique that is quintessentially Galle.

It is fascinating that the Galle Fort stands magnificently preserved over four centuries. It’s mainly due to the ingenious local artisans who adapted European design basics to perfectly solidify Sri Lanka’s geological, climatic, historical and cultural attributes even using coral with granite for the ramparts. It did withstand the impact of massive 2004 tsunami to a great extent.

Once you enter from the main gate, a systematic grid layout of by-roads running parallel to the ramparts will take you on a ‘120 minute stroll’ covering entire Galle Fort, sightseeing historic landmarks and shopping streets.

A 500 typical Dutch houses, heritage museums and a line of quaint shops sit pretty on one side, selling anything from gems, jewellery, fashion garments, to love cake and Espresso.  Being a city of contrasts, on the other, lies palatial whitewashed colonial mansions with expansive lawns, along the cobblestone paved promenade.

Galle Lighthouse

The current 26.5 metre high (87ft) concrete lighthouse has been strategically built above road level on the ramparts at point Utrecht Bastion giving it full view of any ship entering the Galle harbour.

A previous 24.4 meter (80 ft.) high cast iron lighthouse with fixed point light reflectors visible for 19 kilometres, constructed in 1848 by the British at this location was destroyed by a fire, in mid1930s. The very first light house in Galle Fort was built by the Dutch in 1814.


Walking the Ramparts

It would be interesting to listen to the authentic stories, fascinating folktales and follow the legendary paths on a guided walk around Galle Fort. Meander through the cobblestone streets, grass paved promenades and tree lined shady avenues running grid-like, parallel to the ramparts. You will wonder at street names that are a legacy of a bygone era and imposing buildings that are immersed in history and legend. Listen to true stories of the devastating impact of the unexpected 2004 tsunami that rocked the fort of Galle and changed the lives of its survivors, overnight.

Get on the Rampart walls of Galle Fort strengthened by 14 Bastions made of limestone, coral and sandstone which are four centuries old and stretches all-round the fort offering an uninterrupted stunning view of the ocean. From sunrise through to sunset, the ramparts are a popular hangout for joggers, peddle-pushers, kite flyers and cricket enthusiasts who never fail to gather atop the ramparts to watch matches at the International Cricket Stadium lying immediately below. You have to be one among the crowd that throng to Utrecht Bastion to witness awe-inspiring extreme adventure stunts performed by local youth, to capture a memorable experience on your lens.

After all, the Rampart walls are everybody’s favourite three-kilometre-long haunt, to savour a bite over coffee with friends or steal a rendezvous at a wayside cafe or do a quiet stroll, lost in the enchantment of the atmosphere.

Galle Fort Jumpers  

There in Galle live gifted youth who do the incredible. They literally do the kind of stunts we see only in Hollywood movie thrillers. Jumping off Galle Fort’s ancient citadel walls isn’t bungee jumping. It’s way bigger than that. It’s worth going all the way to Galle just to experience the real thing!

Galle Fort jumpers started their exhibition stunts around the 1920s, the world’s equivalent to bungee jumping but only a lot more daring, mainly because once they jump there is no pulling back. There are deadly rocks underwater which cuts fine a near death experience.  It needs more than courage, luck and bravado to do this. You need to do some mental calculations and a whole lot of training. The jump off happens on the Fort Ramparts on the top of Flag Rock Bastion located between Triton and Utrecht Bastions.

The amazing part about James Bond style Fort Jumping is that even on days of extreme weather with windy and stormy atmosphere, the youth dive into just a three to four feet of shallow waters in some places, miraculously missing the hidden rocks immediately below. A certain Jumper, a superman of sorts, has been at it for over a decade pushing limits of extreme adventure to earn his rice n curry. For these professional jumpers from the village backwoods, it’s all about having loads of experience in these climates, waters, terrains and heights that matter, more than mere ego and guts.

The jumpers hang out there from 9am to 6pm yet the late afternoon is best, to watch and capture the moment when light is just right. You will be on edge experiencing it live, capturing this death defying, adrenaline pushing moment in time when they leap off the edge.


Galle Dutch Hospital

It’s a long, exquisitely restored storied building on Lehn Baan Street, by the big Banyan Tree. The 17 century Dutch hospital which once treated ailing solders, is now a fully refurbished happening dining den, housing rows of posh restaurants and luxury shops enticing the upmarket locals and tourists. A herbal garden nearby tells a story of how Sri Lanka Ayurveda potions may have rendered the better medicinal option. Many things in there have changed today, except its name: The Dutch Hospital!

Along the beautiful wooden verandahs you discover branded fashion outlets, a plethora of exclusive gem dealers ware and jewellery while the upper level of the building is another world of élite fine dining restaurants, bars, swanky shops, Ayurveda spas, and tea emporiums for the discerning. It’s ‘the place’ to buy your souvenir, precious blue sapphire gems or moonstone piece of jewellery while savouring your memorable island’s favourite seafood meal!


The Dutch Reformed Church

Built in 1640 it’s the oldest protestant church in the island. The church interior contains a pipe organ, an imposing pulpit made of calamander wood and a grand hexagonal canopy. This iconic Dutch Church building has massive tomb stones on the floor.

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Ajantha Lakmal

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