How legends are made
Juliet Coombe enjoys the now monthly Galla
Pola/Galle Fort Golden Flea Market, which takes place on the last Sunday
of every month except April, May, June and September.
The Galla Pola or the Galle Fort Golden Flea Market in its third
incarnation this coming long weekend is a cornucopia of colourful
stalls, splendid eateries, teaming with abundant activities - an event
that has something for both the young and the old and also for kids who
want a magical space to run around in.
Strolling about the luminously hued conical domes of the tents in
Galle Fort's Law Court Square, stalls bedecked with tables of treasures
and bargains, we find groups of friends and families taking respite
under the old Banyon trees, enjoying French baguettes and spicy delights
while deciding which stall to tackle next.
Some browsing through the vintage old and new designer clothes, the
arts and crafts, the antiques, the Afghan rugs or the home furnishings,
the trinkets, toys, bric-a-brac, organic fair trade products, souvenirs,
home made soaps and so many other delight.
While others wile away a few more hours in recline under the shade of
the ancient wishing tree at the atmospheric pop-up cafes such as Liam's
from Fortaleza, creator of delicious wraps and ice cool tea - a
fascinating character whose family comes from Kandy who is always full
of wonderful stories about Sri Lanka. Also, for the naughtier members of
the community, there are simply delicious home made cakes with ice
coffees produced by the lovely team at the Crep-ology Restaurant's
stall, reflecting the spice trade with cinnamon and freshly cut bananas.
Take home a deft and neat stack of homely jam jars filled to the brim
with thick red oozy goodness wrapped on top with twine rope on a soft
rustic muslin cloth sitting aside another table with refreshing fruits
being made into juices.
Hand loom material
Elsewhere, the lace making lady with ponderous patience explains to a
Chinese lady the fine art of the local lace making (Beeralu) including
ex-positing the intricate, delicate and almost fragile looking lattice
work ornamentation and embellishments that have been honed by years and
decades of perfection and dedication to a vanishing yet vital craft and
art now used in international movie costumes giving the ancient art form
a new lease of life.
Handed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter - the years
show in the wizened yet wise faces. In a complete breakaway from the
standard fair we have the unusual lantern or Wesak pandol making stall
where one can enroll in a DIY with help of course given if needed in a
lantern-making workshop which doesn't take long as one has free will to
choose the colour and the exact design one would like to have. Now that
is something for all you who have by now had that sugar rush from the
French patisserie stalls or have caught the art bug and can't wait to
create something unique with your bare hands.
If art is not your thing you can buy some beautiful cards both hand
made and Vintage, and from the Exotic Roots stand a Technicolor poster
map of the fort to remind you of this beautiful place. Above all, enjoy
the warmth of a smile as everyone revels in the many odd delights of
second and first-hand fair trade goods; all part of the uniqueness of
Galle's 21st Century flea market that makes this an excellent Sunday
trip out for all the family to enjoy the enchanted environment of the
Fort which, along with its historic sites, now has a monthly market that
echoes times gone by.
World Heritage Living City
The Galle Heritage Foundation founded the Pola in December 2012 to
boost trade, tourism and heritage awareness in Galle's historic fort. As
such, the Galle Pola, now into its third month, has become a critical
enabler of the Galle Heritage Foundation's mission to "make the World
Heritage Living City a site of archaeological importance and a global
cultural tourist destination par excellence".
The Foundation has been delighted with the positive feedback from
vendors, both local and international, who have participated in the
first two Polas, indicating excellent business was done by all and that,
as word spreads regarding the success of the event, more and more
vendors and strollers will take part each month.
One British tourist who came to the January Pola with his wife and
four children was absolutely enthralled by the vibrant atmosphere, the
delicious international cuisine being offered at the pop up cafes and
the eclectic mix of weird and wonderful wares on sale. In his words:
"Our kids are having a wild and magical time running around the square
with all the other young and I just can't believe how entrepreneurial,
creative and family-friendly the atmosphere is here today. Who would
have thought it? This is like stumbling upon a treasure chest in the
sleepy southwest corner of a mesmerizing beautiful tropical island".
A businesswoman from Colombo who journeyed down the highway to Galle
to browse for bargains at the last Pola said: "This is not just about
buying and selling. This is about people having fun. Long live Galla
Making everyone comfortable
One half Sri Lankan half English owner of a restaurant in Galle Fort
who erected a temporary café under the shade of the enormous para trees
remarked, "I saw that loads of shoppers had to leave the first market to
go and find food and drink, so I decided to bring my restaurant to them
and help create a vibe where people can really make a day of it, put
their feet up for a while and do some people watching. I'm now proud to
declare myself what you might call part of the Flea Market Furniture."
The Pola was launched in love of local heritage, multiculturalism and
community spirit and in celebration of the community of Galle reaching a
'critical mass' or even a 'zenith' in terms of its volume,
sophistication and diversity.
A market, bringing everyone together in the exquisitely beautiful and
majestic setting of Court Square, felt like a natural step forward in
the evolution of the Fort as a millennia-old emporium of global trade.
Galle Heritage Foundation Chairman Parakrama Dahanayake says, "I am glad
we are able to be partners with the community in the development of this
great event. In a sense, this is not something new to Galle Fort. If we
catch the threads of the history of this location, for many centuries it
has been a meeting place for voyagers and traders from many parts of the
world. We look forward to seeing you at the third Pola next Sunday,
February 24 from 8am till 4.30pm."