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Walking tour of historic Fort Kochi
Friday, December 20th, 2013

By Sudha Mathew

If I was asked to choose my favorite historic city in India, there’s no doubt the answer would be Fort Kochi in Kerala.

fishing nets, Fort Kochi

I’ve been there many times but I wouldn’t pass up the chance to go again. I would say that walking through Fort Kochi is the perfect way to explore this pretty little Old Town. Driving through would make you miss the architectural quirks and historic remnants in Fort Kochi. Walking through the tree lined lanes takes you on a discovery of the most important ancient port city of India known to spice traders across the world.

lane of Fort Kochi
On the road in Fort Kochi

Having done this a few times, here’s my personal take on a walking tour of Fort Kochi.

Santa Cruz Basilica

I recommend starting from the old and the ancient Santa Cruz Basilica. Build by the Portuguese, this Church engulfs within its walls a fascinating history of the rise and fall of regimes. In 1558, the Church was elevated to a cathedral. The British regime took over in 1795 to demolish this holy building. More than a century later a new building was authorized and another century down the line Santa Cruz was proclaimed a basilica in 1984.

Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi
Santa Cruz Basilica

Vasco House

After you have explored the basilica, straight down the road on the corner of Rose Street there stands the oldest Portuguese house of this island town. Built as early as in the first half of the 16th century it is said this house had been the residence of Vasco da Gama.

Bastion Bungalow

Further straight down the road there is the Bastion Bungalow. Yes you would cross the St. Francis Church on your way, but I suggest keeping it as the fourth visit of the day. Overlooking the harbour entrance, the Bungalow stands picture perfect into the circular structure of the old bastion. Planned in 1667, this heritage bungalow is a thoughtful blend of the Indo- European style. A typical first floor verandah and tiled roof are the first things to notice at the very first glance. Thought there are innumerable tales of secret tunnels below the house, none have ever been found.

St. Francis Church

You already have crossed this heritage building on your way to the Bastion Bungalow. Considered as the oldest European Church in India, St. Francis was originally Roman Catholic during the Portuguese era from the 1503 till the 1663. With the rise and fall of regimes, the Church has witnesses shift in faith from the Dutch Reformist till 1804 to the Anglican till 1947. Finally it is now part of the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama originally was buried here in the year 1524. Later his mortal remains were taken back to Portugal and reburied. The gravestone is still preserved n the church.

St. Francis Church

Cochin Club

Your next stop could be at the Cochin Club. Old buildings with the charm of the yesteryears, the Cochin Club dates back to the early 20th century. A typical British club that permitted only and only male membership initially now has 350 members and is keeping alive its heritage.

Parade Ground

On the way to the David hall you shall see the Parade Ground. Right at the heart of the island town is the peacefully green Parade Ground. This piece of green was used by all the three regimes, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British for military drills and parades. Today, it is the largest open greens in the whole of Fort Kochi, hosting games of local football and cricket.

David Hall

Built by the Dutch East India Company in the late 17th century today is named after one of the later owners called David Koder. Restored and maintained by the CHG Earth group, this hall today is a centre of contemporary arts and aesthetics. There is a simple yet smart café behind the exhibition hall, the nostalgic ambience of the entire campus makes this place a popular tourist hub.

The Dutch Cemetery

A ten minutes’ walk from the David hall is the Dutch Cemetery. Consecrated in 1724, the cemetery is now a part of the Church of South India. The tombstones bear witness to the colonial carnival that the entire world witnessed in the 17th, 18th and the 19th century. Countless men and women had left Europe and participated in this most enchanting saga that Fort Kochi along with the rest of the world had experienced.

Bishop’s House

This would be a relatively longer walk. It is the large gothic arches of the Bishop’s house that will definitely grab your attention. Meant to be the residence of the Portuguese Governor the house was built in 1506, took over by the Dutch in 1663 for a century before the British conquest in 1795. From the Vernedes family it was acquired by Dom Jose Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of Cochin. Today this house showcases the Indo-Portuguese history.

VOC

It is a small town, while walking through this heritage town you will come back to the same place more than once. Facing the Parade ground is a large gate with the monogram spelling VOC. Back in the 1740’s there was the mighty Dutch East India Company which had its offices here for almost one and half century. Much in contrast with the past, the VOC labelled gate today leads to a designer store.

Princess Street

Last and perhaps the most enchanting stop of the day, I have saved the best for the last. An old street retaining some of its old character, this street is an old European style hangout for the locals and definitely a favourite spot for the visitors.

Teapot near the Princess street

Even today, this city and its people restore everything that is old, that is precious. Despite the fact that Fort Kochi does not remain untouched by the forces of globalization, this city retains the past glory of a bygone era. Cochin is rich indeed, in culture, heritage and a very enchanting history. Walk through Fort Kochi and you will understand how the fabulous riches of the Malabar coast had an irresistible allure for traders from Rome, Holland, Phoenicia, Arabia and more  to this far away land.

If you would like to spend more time in this heritage quarter, I suggest our bouquet of charming hotels in Fort Kochi ranging from boutique to homestay.

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I might have missed out on a couple of places, why don’t you add to the list. I’d make sure to catch them up the next time I am there. 

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Cheers

Sudha

Picture Courtesy:

Fishing nets, Joseph 

Lanes of Fort Kochi, Priyadarshi

Santa Cruz Basilica, Liu

Teapot, Priyadarshi

Featured Image, Nicolas


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Posted by Sudha at 8:35 pm
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About me

The wise man travels to discover himself - JR Lowell

 

My name is Sudha Mathew. I'm an ex-banker who quit the rat race after a decade to follow my passion for travel and to combine it with my experience in understanding client requirements and exceeding their expectations.

 

While our content is mostly about the holiday experience, the accommodation and services, there's so much more to a journey. I have discovered a whole new me through travel. So I've reserved this corner of the website to share the unexpected aspects of travel. This space is also to hear from you about your journeys and discoveries. Bon Voyage!

 
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