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The Gated Walls of Galle

If I could return to Sri Lanka for a day and walk around any city, that city would be Galle.

Galle is a unique city that has weathered tsunamis and different ruling powers and managed to stay intact and preserve the best of what it was dealt. Galle feels familiar and exotic at the same time. The fort city was built by Europeans and the Dutch buildings reminded me of Kota Tua in Jakarta. The Portuguese arrived first, then the Dutch and finally the British — all left their mark. Galle is beautiful and charming and the UNESCO World Heritage fort has plenty of restaurants, hotels and guest houses and boutiques for shopping. But what makes it such a great place to wander for several days is that regular people still live within the fort walls.

Chloe and I spent our days wandering and looking for the wandering mango man of Galle. He pushes his cart around the fort and sells delicious pre-cut bags of mangoes.

In the mornings, men selling vegetables to housewives and restaurant owners pull up in their bajaj and wait for people to come and pick what they want.

Parts of Galle feel very European:

We visited the old Dutch Reformed Church that dates back to 1755 and the floor is lined with gravestones.

The favorite local activities seem to be strolling around the fort walls and going for swims. Not bad, not bad at all.

Chloe and I were stopped by some young men as we walked around the fort. They just wanted to chat and know where we were from. It was nice to talk to some young people who just wanted to have a conversation and not sell us anything, perhaps I’ve become a bit jaded after months of travel.

The lighthouse was my favorite landmark in Galle. Hopefully, I’ll return some day and take some more strolls.

Where to Stay: Ocean View Guest House located at 80 Lighthouse Street, was a comfortable and well-located option in the fort for $55 a night. We enjoyed having morning tea (which they decided not to charge us for) on the rooftop garden where their tortoise wanders about.

Where to shop:
Galle seems to be a hot bed for the gemstone trade. But if you’re not in the market for expensive stones, these two stores offered nice gifts:
Orchid House at 28A Hospital Street. The owner is knowledgeable about tea and plans to start doing tastings to educate people about different varieties grown in Sri Lanka.
Exotic Roots Art Shop at 32 Church Street has beautiful postcards and home decorations.

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