Galle – The Hub of Tourism in the South of Sri Lanka
The Southern Capital Captivates the Tourists
Galle is a township 119 KM away from the Capital City of Colombo, towards the South. Still earlier it was referred to as ‘GIMHATHITHTHA’ and was referred to as QALI by the famous traveler Ibn Batuta, in the 14th Century. Incidentally this may have led to it being called ‘GALI’ in Tamil language, prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in this country, in the 16th Century. It was then, the main port of the country. Galle reached the peak of its development in the 18th Century –during the Dutch period. Its major river is the Gin Ganga –originating from the Gongala Kanda and winding its way through the villages of Neluwa, Nagoda, Baddegama, Thelikada and Wakwella, before it embraces the ocean at Ginthota. The longest bridge spanning the Gin Ganga is at Wakewella.
This city is an outstanding example of fortified city constructed by the colonialist Europeans in South and South-East Asia, portraying the interaction between the European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. The Fort in Galle has been declared a World Heritage Site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia –constructed by the European occupiers. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the natural harbour, the National Maritime Museum, the St. Mary’s Cathedral founded by the Jesuit priests, one of the main temples of Shiva and Amangalla –the historic Luxury Hotel.
Galle is the main city situated in the Southern tip of the island, and having a population of around – if not over – 100,000; and is connected by road and rail, to Colombo and Matara. It was one of the many towns in the South of the country to be devastated by the dreaded Tsunami, on the 26th of December, 2004. Galle boasts of one of the latest International Cricket Stadium in the country; and International Cricket matches are played there. Following the devastated by the Tsunami and test matches were resumed on December 18th, 2007. It is an interesting and educative Visitor Destination.
The capital of the Southern Province, Galle, is a city with a colourful history. The UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site; and the main attraction is the magnificent Dutch Fort. It emanates a 300 years Old Dutch atmosphere, as do the other many ancient buildings not invaded by skyscrapers. The beautiful Unawatuna beach is just 06 KM away. Rumassala Kanda, in Unawatuna, is a large mound –like hill, which forms the Eastern protective barrier to the Galle harbour. This hill is traditionally associated with some events narrated in the Ramayana.
The Southern Coastal Belt is most popular among the tourists; and is a hive of activity between the months of October and April –when the monsoon moves to the North-East and one is blessed with calm seas and blue skies. It functioned as the earliest of the administrative centres in Sri Lanka –until the British shifted the port to Colombo. The city of Galle functioned as major administrative centre, the largest port and commercial centre –till the British shifted the capital to Colombo. It was the centre of European administration for well over FOUR (04) CENTURIES.
The Dutch ReformedChurch –built by a Dutch Army officer where, earlier stood the Portuguese church and completed in 1754 stands by the new entrance to the fort. It contains the records of marriages since 1748 and of baptisms from 1678. Another significance of the building is that there are no pillars inside the building; and that the roof is supported by the walls.
Koggala, the hometown of the famous Martin Wickremasinghe is also in the vicinity of Galle. There is a museum of Folk Art and Culture built in his honour, at his old residence, where, on display, are a wide range of local folk items –including costumes of folk dancers, sport items and furniture plus a vast arena of the folk life of the early 20th Century. A boat trip in the lagoon and the Koggala Lake will enable one to see the many small islands –so popular amongst Bird Watchers and for complete relaxation.
The towns of Ahangama and Midigama use a fishing technique peculiar to them alone. Still fishing is popular in these areas; and it has beautiful scenery for the visitors –especially during sunset. Ahangama is also a popular surfing ground and relatively less crowded.
The Portuguese built the first Fort to defend the city from attacks by the Sri Lankans from the North. The Dutch who captured the coastal cities from the Portuguese strengthened the defence system of the fort. The British, who captured the city, did not make any changes as they moved northward to Colombo. Hence the Dutch atmosphere is still prevalent. There are still many old Dutch buildings intact bringing life to the world of yore.