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Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Galle fort is an amazing place where one can forget what century it is. A small tropical Europe. It seems that you are in a small town in the Southern Italy or Corsica, but it is relished with the scent of the Indian Ocean waves, palm trees and equatorial sunset. The city is full of two-storied houses facing each other; mopeds parked along the narrow streets. However expensive cars can also be often seen here. The houses are built by prior colonizers. Today there are offices and souvenirs shops on the first floor, and the second floor is inhabited by natives. Many buildings are turned into hotels, where the descendants of former colonizers stay when "paying a visit" to their ancestors.

Galle is first mentioned in 125-150 AD as a port involved in trade with Greece, China, Arabic countries. In 1505 the Portuguese lead by Lourenco de Almeida settled here. Thus the history of the fort started: the Portuguese exploited it as a jail for local rebels. At that time however the fort didn’t have its contemporary look. It was built with palm trees and mud, and they called it Santa Cruz. Later three bastions and a tower were built.

In 1640 the Dutch invaded the country, captured the fort and started rebuilding it. As the Portuguese thought that the city was invincible from the seaside, they didn’t build a wall there. However the Dutch considered it nonsense and encircled the whole territory (more than 52 hectares) with invincible fortifications. In the time of Dutch colonization many workshops were built -for smithy, rope making etc. They constructed a well developed sewage system. At that very time 14 bastions were built with coral and granite named Sun, Moon, Star, Aurora etc. There are two gates: on one of them the Dutch Coat of Arms are depicted with inscription in the center - VOC ( Verenigde Oostindindische Compagnie - Dutch East India Company). On the other gate British Coat of Arms can be seen with the same VOC inscription.

The British took over the fort in the beginning of 1796. They built many houses here, a gate between the Moon and Sun bastions, the lighthouse. However they preferred Colombo to Galle and thus the Galle fort was gradually abandoned.

Despite all the renovations made here in 16-19 centuries the fort preserved its main features and still is the largest fort-city in Asia built by Europeans.

The city’s rich history has played an important role. The contrast between local principles and European influence, Buddhist temples and catholic churches makes this place mysterious and attracting. When walking around the fort you always have the impression that when you turn around the corner, you'll come across a mystery that is to be discovered.

By Sona Gasparian,

Photos by Narek Bakhtamyan


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