Galle – The hole in the wall
“Whenever you see a hole in the wall sneak through it! The magic is right behind it”, Juliet tells us. We have an appointment with Juliet Coombe who wants to show us “her” Galle. The old fort at the southern end of Sri Lanka is an extraordinary place. British and Dutch colonization have left their architectural signature. Hippies and other dropouts characterize todays face of the little old town behind the thick walls of coral – that even, though located near the sea, have withstood the Tsunami of 2004. At the same time, many longestablished Sri Lankan families have lived here for countless generations and carry the stories and history of the small town.
Juliet, a British journalist who came to Galle to report about the effects of the catastrophic Tsunami that pulled away a large part of the New Town and took the lives of countless people, got stuck here. Today she is married to a Sri Lankan – and one of the first English woman who married into one of the traditional Galle families during the last 148 years. Together with her husband she leads the Serendipity Arts Cafe which, with it’s street art approach, could also consist in the middle of Berlin or London. And she has written a book: “In 80 lives around the fort”, a photo story that portrays the genuine and unique characters of the people within the Fort walls.
Her guided tour of Galle offers countless amazing insights. A toothless old couple invites us to have a look at their private home, the church guard of the ancient Dutch Fort Church takes us on a journey to the secrets and legends around the graves and the dead, we discover the secret passages through which the European occupiers were able to savely escape from the fortress in case of emergency and have an introduction to the superstitions of the local population that shows up in masks and ghosts repellent characters above the entrance doors. During the relaxing lunchbreak at the Juliet’s cafe our kids disappear into the gardens together with Juliet’s son, to visit his rabbits and pigeons – and we enjoy the chilled atmosphere on the veranda.
For me, that was one of the most exciting and above all authentic days of the trip even if the town definitely does not stand typical for Sri Lanka. Juliet is commonly referres to Galle as a kind of Vatican City or state within the state. But Galle is pure and straight – and that is what I love to see when I travel. The main tourist attractions and monuments belong to the To Do list – but the personal contact with the people and their stories for me is the real appeal a trip.