Monday, January 2, 2012

Fort Galle

Because we might get bored if we stay at this delightful hotel with all the amenities you could ever want (and I have my kindle loaded with about 20 unread books), we took off to Fort Galle to eat lunch and check out the community that still lives within its walls.

Small row of tuk tuks
Crazy traffic

I have to start out with driving here in Sri Lanka….it seems like I should get over it…just ignore seems to just be a reoccurring theme…and you might miss it if I skipped it. Not only that, it will make you appreciate how good we have it in the states when the local idiot does something stupid on the road. Remember the tuktuks we rode in long ago in Thailand? They have been upgraded and improved here and they can be found absolutely everywhere – most are for hire but since they’re cheap, (relatively speaking) sometimes a family buys them for personal use. They are ubiquitous. Now they usually do stick to driving down the left side (yes, we're back to drive to the left), in a somewhat slower lane, except for when they don’t. Motorcycles and bike fit in that same category, hugging the left except when they’re passing, driving down the road, dodging a dog, kid, bike or tourist.  They pass when they like, the cars pass when they want, the buses and trucks pass and get passed by each other and all of the above. They pass on straight stretches, curves, partial curves, around corners and into oncoming traffic.  If someone is coming towards you well...they’ll honk their horn, you’ll honk your horn,  they might stop, or perhaps slow swing back in, the tuktuk backs off. It looks chaotic and most foreigners have decided that the best way to deal with it is… to not look. They do have a booming business of drivers for hire…

The wall - high enough to stop the tsunami
The Lighthouse

Fort Galle history in a nutshell: The fort was started by the Portuguese to protect them from the natives. For some strange reason the native people objected to the Portuguese taking their lands, essentially making them work for not much money, and then punishing them when they objected – they built a jail there to house the Sinhalese people who tried to fight them. There was some good from the development of trade – spices were a hot commodity -  but still.... The walls of the fort were built up on the east side, the land, protection from the natives. Well...they weren't expecting the Dutch, from the sea so in yet another gory battle, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese and proceeded to take over the land and trade. The Dutch built up the seaward wall and added lots of bastions and other improvements so that they had a protective ring around the entire community at Galle Fort. At various times, over the years, proposals were made to change or remove structures but they always maintained the integrity of the fort...and nothing has ever breached its walls since, including the 2004 tsunami that hit the area. While the tsunami took out communities to the north and south, the force of the waves did not breach the fort.
Al Meera Mosque

Buddhist temple

The lighthouse is one of the main structures that is visited there. It is still in use today because the coastline here is filled with hundreds of rocks. There are also a large number of monuments left in the fort including the Dutch Reformed Church, the Dutch government museum, the Clock Tower, the Meera Mosque, a Buddhist Temple, a Roman Catholic church and the Al Saints Anglican Church. Quite a mix of religions within this small site. 

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