Best preserved example of Portuguese fortified city in Asia
Our next move in Sri Lanka after visiting its fascinating capital city, Colombo, (and still our base for the next days); we take the advantage of the small distances in the country for a day trip to one of the most historical cities, Galle. First taken by the Portuguese as their colony in 1502, they built its fort which until today it remains as the most complete, largest and best preserved example in the whole of Asia, although greatly revamped and enlarged when the Dutch took over.
It was until 1640 that the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company who then built pretty much the proper city and not just a military post as was before. From 1796 the city and the country itself would pass onto the hands of the last colony, the British. Over the centuries of 3 different colonial periods, the city grew in prosperity, being the largest port city in Sri Lanka, something that never changed since at least 1400 BC with the trade route, with Sri Lanka the largest export of cinnamon.
Being in Galle is transporting yourself to the past. While we are much more used to visiting former Spanish colonial cities in Central/South America and already experienced few times that feeling, in Asia is somewhat different. More exotic if I have to find a word for it. And it does still feel the same even though we’ve been to many beautiful colonial cities in this part of the world. The more similar to Galle could be Goa, Macau, Batavia (the old town of Jakarta), Jogjakarta, Surabaya or Malacca to name some former Portuguese and Dutch. British are many more, but Galle has its uniqueness in having retained majority of the Portuguese and Dutch constructions, urban plan and flair. (more…)