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Galle Fort Reminiscences

Words by Daisy Perry

The time I spent in Galle Fort will remain forever etched in my mind: staying in Parrawa Street, a small lane close to the Sri Sudharmalaya Buddhist temple with the sea breeze sweeping up the streets. The Goonawardana family that I stayed with couldn’t have been more hospitable, and I was regularly given kolakanda and kiri bath with spicy sambol in the mornings, and amazing rice and curry spreads for lunch.

Cycling through the streets on my slightly rusty mountain bike, bumping over the odd pot-hole and 17th century Dutch drain cover, I couldn’t have been more content. I had Mr Hanifa, my eighty-year-old friend opposite to keep me amused, who recounted tales of the history of the Fort and was always keen to start writing romances and ghost stories; then the characters who work and come to read the papers in the nearby YMBA, which is used as a secret short-cut between two streets. Another favourite haunt was the Pedlar Street Café, where you can chat to the friendly owner Azeez whilst indulging in fresh juices and home-baked chocolate brownies.

Food and cuisine are an important part of life in the Fort – from the early hours as the sun is rising you hear bicycle sellers flying down the streets with shouts of ‘malu malu’ ‘kesel’ and ‘kola’. Then mid-morning, the sounds of the vegetable cart and thambili sellers fill the streets.

At festival times such as Ramadan, there is a great atmosphere after sunset and the rotti shops on New Lane and Rampart Street go into full swing. During this time I was lucky enough to be brought plates of biryani and sweets, as well as mugs of barley soup, and handfuls of dates by the generous residents.

Another favourite activity was and still is visiting my friends Fazal and Fathima on Leyn Baan Street who run the Old Dutch Café, and enjoying hot coffee or ginger tea with them.

Bicycling into Galle town was another highlight – past the cricket pitch to the fruit market, fish market, the stationers, the old Ariyadasa printers with their 150-year-old presses and exploring the trading area where bullock carts pull up to collect large sacks of rice and vegetables, ayurvedic products and spices. Pedalling further you come to villages set in paddy fields, temples such as the historic Yatagala rock temple and then to the coast and stunning coves like Unawatuna.

Through pouring monsoon rains when the skies are the same iron grey as the Fort walls, to serene days when colourful kites fly in the sky, and people picnic on the ramparts, to starry nights when groups of friends gather to chat, sing and enjoy spicy bites, the citadel is a truly varied and fascinating place to live, where there is very rarely a dull moment.

This article was originally published at:

Tripin Publication 2013 - www.tripinsl.com

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