Gall Fort, the amazing and picturesque walled township
Galle is so heavily imbued with Sri Lankan history and culture, and not a little ancient and modern controversy, that it is difficult to know where to start.
The obvious place is Gall Fort, and the fact that this amazing and picturesque walled township is a UNESCO World heritage site of rare distinction and diversity.
Although its exact origins are lost in antiquity, evidence shows that it flourished in pre-Christian and Roman times before emerging as a magnet for traders from all over the known world.
The massive and impressive fortifications were created and expanded during the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial periods, which are reflected in the mix of architectural styles and street layouts.
While Galle has always been a hugely important trading center, hence the fortifications, today it is also noted for its electic mix of tourist attractions, including boutiques, cafes and hotels, many owned by foreigners, as are a third of the houses.
This has caused much present-day controversy, with leading Sri Lankan experts maintaining that this unique historical should remain in Sri Lankan hands.
UNESCO agrees, saying: “Archaeological experts and other organisations interested in the preservation of this World Heritage site are raising alarm at the facilities afforded to foreigners to purchase land within the Galle Fort…
“By 1998, over 50 houses had been bought by non-Lankans including 30 Dutch colonial period houses. Are the alarm bells ringing far too late – or is there hope yet for the survival of this historic monument?”
Despite this foreboding, or maybe because of it, the Sri Lanka government has acted to ensure that Gall Fort not only survives, but thrives, and remains an absolute must-visit for foreign and domestic visitors alike.
Its sporting claim to fame is its cricket ground, the Galle International Stadium, which has hosted numerous Test Matches and is one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world.