Fort Kochi: An Old World Town

You see the old world town from the sea, a row of old single-storey buildings, all with tiled roofs. That is Fort Kochi, in Kerala.

The impression of an old world town is reinforced as you land in the old boat jetty. Narrow streets lined mostly with old houses, some two-storey, a few rebuilt on more modern lines. An ancient looking beach with Chinese fishing nets. Old churches and even an ancient cemetery.

Old world town - Fort Kochi

What's Special about Fort Kochi?

Fort Kochi is where the Portuguese settled down in the sixteenth century. Vasco da Gama and his men were battling the local ruler at Malabar and his Arab friends. They found an ally in the ruler of Kochi, who befriended them to declare his independence from the Malabar ruler. The Kochi ruler allowed the Portuguese to establish a warehouse and other facilities.

You could find Portuguese memorials here, including an Indo-Potuguese Museum set up with aid from Portuguese Government. There is also a Dutch Cemetery at Fort Kochi.

How Do You Reach This Old World Town?

You land at the Cochin International Airport (that has direct international flights from Singapore, Dubai and other Arabian Gulf airports). From the airport you travel by road to Ernakulam, the CBD of Cochin. From Ernakulam, you take a scheduled-service boat to Fort Kochi.

A Tour of Fort Kochi

View from an old world town beach

After landing, you turn right at the road in front and walk (or take an "auto rickshaw" - a passenger three wheeler for hire) to the beach. The shady beach accommodates several Chinese Fishing nets. From the beach, you could see the Vypeen Island. Ships enter the Cochin port through the opening between Fort Kochi and Vypeen Island.

You could work the Chinese Fishing nets, or just sit and watch traditional fishermen in their country boats on the sea. Or you could walk along the beach that extends to the mouth of the port. Along the way, you could see old colonial bungalows.

St Francis Church

You could now start a tour of the old world town proper. In the pic on the left you see the St Francis Church built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan Friars. Vasco da Gama was originally reported to have been buried here.

A little further, you could find the Santa Cruz Basilica Church. Originally a Roman Catholic church built by the Portuguese, it was demolished by the English. Later, a new church was constructed on the same site, which was still later proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II.

A 16th century building

Not far away is the Vasco House (pic to the right), one of the earliest residences built in Fort Cochin. Reports say that it was the residence of Vasco da Gama himself, who died in Fort Kochi during 1524.

Now go to the stately Bishop's House, built in 1506, originally the residence of the Portuguese Governor. In the same grounds, you would find an Indo-Portuguese Museum that had been funded by Lisbon Government. The Museum houses Christian articles and some local artifacts.

A cemetery of Europeans

The three-wheeler (see the vehicle adjacent to Vasco House above) driver could also take you to the Dutch Cemetery consecrated in 1724, with many tombstones of Europeans (see pic left)

You could now proceed to Mattanchery, another old world town, that was a center of Jewish settlers. There is a Jew Town and a Jewish Synagogue (built in 1568) at Mattanchery.

Mattanchery also has a "Dutch" Palace originally built by the Portuguese in 1555 (and renovated by the Dutch). It was the residence of the rulers of Kochi, and has murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.