Dhaneshi Yatawara, in the Sunday Observer, 25 May 2014, where the title reads “Galle Dutch Hospital restored to former glory”
Galle has always been a great attraction of local and foreign tourists since ancient times. The place of great historic value is a compulsory visiting point for all travellers and during each tourist season it becomes one of the most crowded tourist locations. Over a period of time and change, Galle still retains – as few other towns in Sri Lanka – an atmosphere of the past. The Galle Fort, which is the main attraction of the city, is a well preserved monument due to the efforts of the Archaeological Department. The heritage value of the fort has been recognised by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. Within the Fort itself there are several preserved ancient buildings and few others remain in a dilapidated situation. Among these buildings the old Dutch Hospital remained unique and demanded special attention.
It is in such a background the Urban Development Authority took over the restoration of the Dutch Hospital building as a main attraction to tourists. The UDA has taken the responsibility of the entire urban development of the Galle city. Restoring historic places is one important factor in this process.
Today the Galle Dutch Hospital has been transformed in to an attractive shopping mall just like the one in Colombo Fort. It is the ideal place to spend time and buy souvenirs. It would be a great place to idle and enjoy the true Sri Lankan spirit. This market place has eight shops on the ground floor and ten on the first. According to the UDA these shops are designed to accommodate shops selling jewellery, garments and many other souvenirs that tourists love to visit. It will also have several classy restaurants serving local and foreign food varieties.
Such a place in the middle of Galle Fort would definitely bring uniqueness to this historical Galle city. Although the Galle fort is famous as a Dutch fort, the construction of the fort was started by the Portuguese, according to historical records. Actually, Galle was considered as the place where Portuguese first arrived to Sri Lanka in 1505. All these factors are attractions to foreign tourists.
Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the seventeenth century. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and believed to be the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.
Added to all this importance Galle is today linked with the country’s capital by a new expressway making it further easy for tourists to visit the city in a very short period of time. The new access way, opened in 2012, would definitely bring in more tourists to Galle, as it cuts down a huge part of the time consumed in travelling.
Scene at Central Bus stand after the tsunami with the Fort in background — an arena of death and carnage, 26 December 2004
Galle withstood the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which damaged parts of the coastal area. Yet these historical monuments stood intact against the natural calamity. That itself is a wonder, making Galle a place which is of historical, archaeological and architectural significance.
The Galle Dutch Hospital was built [renovated] through the efforts of the tenth battalion of the Engineering Services Regiment under the instructions of the Project Management Department of the UDA. This exceptional place which is now fully constructed will be opened to the public soon, said authorities of the UDA. When fully functioning the Galle Dutch Hospital would definitely attract all travellers just like Galle attracted world travellers throughout history.
an aerial view of Galle harbour and some buildings in the Fort
Test cricket after the grounds were renovated following the tsunami
Two recent images of the Fort walls along the western face taken by Michael Roberts in 2012