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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

If These Thick Walls of Galle Fort Could Talk


It will absolutely narrate to me its rich history dating back to the Portuguese rule of Sri Lanka in the year 1588 when it was first built. Fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century to repel invaders, it has since become one of the most preserved landmarks in the country. Acknowledged for its "urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries", UNESCO granted it a World Heritage Site distinction in 1988.


After resting for about an hour at the lovely Villa Templeberg, I hurriedly went to Galle's city center and walked around until I ended up inside the massive walls of the Dutch Fort or otherwise referred to as 'the Ramparts of Galle'. The sun was at its full glory that day and under my sweat drenched shirts I march uphill until I saw a few shops housed inside polished architecturally-gifted structures that still retains the Fort's centuries-old character. 


Also inside are well preserved landmarks such as the Dutch Reformed Church which stands neatly in color white along with its historic 1709-casted belfry, the Old Dutch Hospital, the All Saints Anglican Church - first built in 1871 and the imposing Clock Tower which was originally erected in 1882. 


Facing the long coastal area of Galle, is a part of the Fort hit hard by the Boxing Day Tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. Following the straight path it led me to the Galle Lighthouse (Pointe de Galle Light). While the one currently standing was built in 1939, an earlier version destroyed by a 1934 fire was first constructed in 1848. 


From the lighthouse I could see scores of locals and foreigners frolicking on the small beach sand area. For a second I entertained the idea of cooling down on the beach by taking a dip until I realized I need to explore the immediate surroundings more by feet. 


These memories I'm writing now was just from my first day at Galle and still at the birth mark of my two-week journey across Sri Lanka. I returned here again on my third day before I took the train to Kandy, so after discovering further South of Galle to witness the stilt fishing practice at Unawatuna and learning the process of tea production at Handunugoda Tea Estate - I came full circle at Galle Fort


Around the Fort is a big Cricket field where I spent an hour watching a sporting action I know nothing about. I just followed each pitching and batting movement as if its a baseball game. A tuk-tuk driver stopped and parked on the side road behind me also stood to watch the match. He turned to me and asked if I understand Cricket, I told him "I don't but I'm learning about it slowly" he said, "Once you understand the game you will get addicted to watching it" I believed him. 


Almost a brother of our own Intramuros Fort in Manila, Galle Fort keeps within its thick walls - a rich history that saw the country of Sri Lanka change its masters from the Portuguese to the Dutch before finally being colonized by the British until its birth as an independent Island nation in 1948. 


In the afternoon of my second visit at the Fort - I remember the cloud slowly turning darker as soft rain followed accompanied by a strengthening wind. I hide behind a large wall to temporary find shelter and watch in fascination as many local families run for shelter, while admiring some couples who remained seated beside each other. The rain stopped after a few minutes and everyone went back to their place on the big lawn spread across the Fort. I find my way out on one of its large gates and with a starving body, I turned around for one last look, and there it was - the massive walls that covers the Fort still refuses to talk, even with the immense amount of history it has witnessed. 






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