It is from above one of the old ramparts facing north that we can see how the fortress structure continues to demarcate such a clear division in the city.
From the outside, everything seems circular and frantic. Players from the local cricket team enter round Galle International Cricket Stadium, warm up and debut their morning practice exercises.
The buses, almost all old folkloric Tatas, compete at the Stadium Road roundabout with the small rickshaws that, despite the early hour, are already running around thirsty for passengers.
Another Hot Tropical Day among the Walls of Fort Galle
Inside, the solid, linear walls contain the incursion of the new day. Crows flit from den to den about to launch their air patrol for food. Some residents are gymnastic on the grass that lines the humble Mahendra Amarasooriya Park.
Four or five cows graze it, sluggish and indifferent to the rest.
We interrupted the contemplation that threatened to hypnotize us. We resume the walk to the east, along the walkway that overlooks the inlet of the port of Galle and reveals, in the distance, the great and warm Indian Ocean.
We repeated prudent steps, already aware of the irregularity of its stones and of the route in general, which includes delicate passages for different heights, narrowings and tentacular intrusions of banyan trees.
We finished one of these problematic stretches right in front of the Dutch church that is said to have been built on the site of a Portuguese Capuchin convent.
From time to time, rickshaws arrive and leave visitors at the door.
Nearby, Dominit displays a python and constricts foreigners away from the house of God.
With an already spent conversation to enchant, he convinces them to photograph themselves with the reptile on his arms. Payment only depends on the wishes of the customers, but whatever it is, it leaves you unsatisfied. “One hundred rupees?? But how do I support my family like this?”
Student Bustle around the Maritime Museum, in the heart of Fort Galle
We round the entrance to the Galle Maritime Museum. A tunnel that crosses its almost orange façade polarizes a parallel commotion.
Cars and rickshaws pass it incessantly to and fro, at the rhythm of a traffic light. At the same time, passersby make themselves into that ephemeral darkness, fearful of the madness of the traffic.
We are about to imitate them when some imperceptible authority there breaks the order of things.
Instead of vehicles, a huge convoy of school children, kids and girls in their respective uniforms, some with hijabs that the family's faith in Allah imposes on them.
Led by the teachers to the exit, the children parade excited by the evasion and distracted by thousands of waves.
Just a hundred meters above, as they appeared, they disappear back into the musty depths of the museum.
We completed the crossing. On the other side, we learn that we are facing another of the fortress portals. It is the oldest, covered with moss that has been feeding for half a millennium on the shadow and humidity of the monsoons.
The natives still know it as “the Portuguese” despite the fact that the coats of arms above its entrances are Dutch and English, the colonial powers that hindered and frustrated our ancestors when only they interfered with the sovereignty of the Ilha da Canela.
The Arrival and Supremacy of the Portuguese in Old Ceylon
It is believed that, in 1505, a fleet commanded by Lourenço de Almeida sailed on the way to Maldives when a storm diverted it to the coast of present-day Sri Lanka.
Almeida stopped at Galle before heading west up the coast, where the King of Kotte would receive him, on the outskirts of the present capital Colombo.
The audience convinced De Almeida of the island's commercial value. De Almeida, in turn, convinced King Vira Parakrama Bahu that he could protect him from incursions from the Malabar Coast and Arabia in exchange for an annual tribute on cinnamon and other products.
In 1518, already under the leadership of Lopo Soares de Albergaria (also known as Alvarenga), the Portuguese returned with a reinforced fleet.
They fortified at Columbus and Galle.
Thereafter, for nearly a century of alliances, rivalries and battles, they increased their dominance and forced Kandy's great enemy rival to resist in the high interior of Ceylon.
This supremacy had its days numbered.
Even so, the nicknames that the Portuguese lent mainly to the families of the kingdoms that supported them persist and multiply in Sri Lanka: Pereras, dos Pereiras – as someone who tells you this story – Silvas, Mendis, Fonseka, Rodrigo and many others.
Galle Adentro Fort, in the Indian Ocean Direction
Far from the case of JPJ Abeyawickrama, a cyclist lottery salesman who resisted imposing his cautions on us but asked us to photograph himself with us and a friend.
When we left them, we took a look at the facilities of the Sri Lankan navy and a small beach used by the city's bathers who delighted in the translucent sea, as if they were self-baptism.
Shortly thereafter, we return to the south exit of the portico and continue our exploration of the fortress through Queens and then Hospital Street. This last street and the adjoining square concentrate a panoply of administrative institutions that attract residents endowed with folders, documents and patience.
A few yards and many arcades ahead, we entered the garden on Pedlar Street. There, the atmosphere, once again marine and tropical, clears up again.
A group of friends are talking in the shade of a fig tree that has settled on dozens of narrow trunks.
Achintha and Kaushma, newlyweds in sleek traditional costumes, star in a matchmaking production that would drag on for hours, would travel through countless other parts of Galle and would cross paths with other grooms in the same preparations.
Luso, Dutch, Arabic and Sinhalese Legacy among Portuguese Walls
Galle's worn lighthouse stands out among coconut trees that chase the top, above the garden's grove and at the tip of the end that housed the fortified square.
We have found that no access to your balcony is allowed.
Reformed, we turned to face the wall between Rampart St. and the Indian Ocean to the south. It was the third ridge of the fortress we completed. So many others were missing.
The heat and humidity rose without clamor.
They dehydrated us and dissolved our energies, as they did to several of the rickshaw drivers who dozed on the padded benches.
We were not taken away from the historic charm we had been walking in since awakening.
On the other side of the street, as if defying the leading role of the lighthouse, an also white mosque.
Meeran Juma is based on an architecture that, were it not for the small crescent tops and the Arabic writings on the frontal, would almost have passed us by a church.
And yet, it was built by Arab merchants from Sri Lanka in the same Moorish Quarter that concentrates, around the prayers, the Muslim community of the fort.
Photographic Pre-Productions of Fortified Marriages
We sense the imminence of another marriage. By the entourage of family and guests that he drags, he can only be moneyed. We walk along the base of the wall that isolates the village from the Indian Ocean, when, coming from the corner of the lighthouse, an embassy of glamorous women in gaudy and shiny saris approaches on the level of the boulevard above.
Intuit, at a glance, how much interest they arouse us as other Western outsiders. In solidarity in pride and vanity, they strut for almost three hundred meters against the blue sky, between cumulus nimbus almost as resplendent.
A Sri Lankan guide, who had offered us his services over and over again, clarifies us with a nationalistic tone of disapproval: “They are Indians. What matters is that they leave good money here..”
The catwalk only ends at the bastion of Flag Rock, the next edge of the fortress and, by far, the most disputed, always surrounded by fruit, drink and sweets sellers.
Dominit and his python had also moved there, attracted by the abundance of prey.
From Bastion to Bastion. A Fort that Preserves Sri Lankan Life
At the top of the stairs, another entertainer focuses the crowd's attention. He is a diver, in a minimal and clumsy way of the divers de The Quebrada of Acapulco. It has a table for various feats. The main one is to dive headfirst into the sea, to a deep but narrow gap between the rocks.
The acrobat does not take long to find clients among the groups of Chinese.
Your first jump takes place in a flash. It's almost as quick as the return along the rock face of the bastion, a treacherous climb which, eager to earn a few hundred extra rupees, completes in three steps.
From the bastion of Flag Rock to the clock tower that rose to the north, opposite the rampart where we had begun our tour, the fortress proves more unencumbered.
It is visited, above all, by young couples of lovers and engaged to shy caresses under parasols.
We are dedicated to the parallel streets of the interior. We made a short tourist pilgrimage to the Church of All Saints, which the last British colonists had built in Victorian Gothic style.
The church is undergoing extensive repairs. On the other hand, the number of cafes, inns and shops in the fortress increased in the heart of the fortress. souvenirs that corrupted the charm of the place.
owners of our final destination, we return to Pedlar St. and ascend to a bastion installed on a huge rock. From there, we admire the vast bay that extended to the Japanese Peace Pagoda.
The tide had run out.
The Beaches Beyond the Forte Walls
The immediate Indian pool was swimming while the beach expanded and welcomed a battalion of bathers, among many more vacationers.
An expedition of the seconds had ventured into the shallow sea to rocks 50 meters apart. We see them making a painful return, linking their arms in a chain to avoid falling onto the rough bed. This, while the fishing boats out there greeted them.
We no longer resisted the appeal of that corner of the coast that radiated harmony and happiness. We sat on the sand and, for a moment, enjoyed the flow of the sunset and the Indian Ocean.
Women in saris chatter, eyeing their husbands who are having fun at the water's edge with their children. Seven or eight middle-aged Sinhalese float in cross position. Your ritual attracts and admits many others.
We are in our own bath when we notice that the sun is setting over the already overcrowded Bandeira da Rocha bastion.
We skirted the bottom of the wall below the lighthouse and entered the soggy, deserted sand.
From this unexpected position, we watched the incandescent circle descend below the precocious horizon of the walls, the orange of the sky and the darkening of everything that stood between us and the great star: a massive tree, the crowd over the bastion, and off , a freighter.
With twilight enveloping the firmament, an effusive celebration of life sustained by the food and drink of the vendors took over that legendary corner of Sri Lanka.
In a few days, we would conquer the Sinhalese fortress and in everything different from Sigiriya.