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A VENETIAN WALKABOUT

How to Spend 5 Days in Venice, Italy – a solo traveller’s perfect self-guided walking itinerary Join me on a leisurely journey around Venice – on a ‘walkabout’. Over four…

How to Spend 5 Days in Venice, Italy – a solo traveller’s perfect self-guided walking itinerary

Join me on a leisurely journey around Venice – on a ‘walkabout’.

Over four days, my self-guided walk led me to some incredible experiences as I strolled through and discovered five of Central Venice’s six districts. On the fifth day, I went island hopping to Murano and Burano.

It is possible not to get lost in Venice if you allow yourself just to wander; with the very occasional “Where am I?” moments. The secret being that Venice has got wise, and everywhere you go there are strategically placed signs pointing the way to St Mark’s Square or Rialto Bridge, both major landmarks. However, I have to confess that I did pull out the map once – in San Polo. I had wandered down so many narrow alleyways that when I entered a tiny courtyard, I didn’t even know which direction I was facing.

Venice is flat. The best way to see it is just to walk. With my camera slung over my shoulder, my favourite walking shoes on, and my trusty guide book in hand, I let my feet and curiosity find the direction.

The starting point for each day’s walk was my hotel, Hotel da Bruno, in the San Marco district. Located at Sestiere di Castello 5726/A – 30122, Hotel da Bruno is ideally located in Venice’s historic centre. For my review on Hotel da Bruno, refer to the section, ‘Where I stayed’ at the end of this post.

As I have taken a different district each day to explore, you don’t have to follow my self-guided walking itinerary per se. This post is a guide, explore what you want, mix it up, or add to the discoveries.

This guide is an updated version of the post, A Venetian Walkabout. Originally Published: January 23, 2018. Updated: August 5, 2020; providing more information and resources.

Let’s walk together. Or step out on your very own walking itinerary.

Day 1: San Marco

On my first day in Venice, I wandered down alleys, crossed some of Venice’s 400 unique bridges and watched the waters of the canals lap the doorsteps of antique buildings in various states of glorious decay. Everywhere I turned I saw evidence of Venice’s unstable foundations, with lopsided arches and leaning church bell towers. So much to photograph. I have fallen in love with Venice.

Over a coffee in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, I saw canal barges loading the linen from hotels and learned from the waiter it is taken off the islands to the mainland for laundering so as not to pollute the canals.

Taking in my surroundings from one bridge, I witnessed a gondola traffic jam and was thankful I was not playing tourist.

Many open boats jostling for position on a narrow canal

Gondola traffic jam

 

Multi-storied brick building with external spiral staircase

Contarini del Bovolo Palace

 

Venturing down a very narrow alley near Campo Manin, requiring me to maneuver through crab-like, I came across an unusual building with the most elegant external multi-arch spiral staircase – the gothic Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. The staircase, with its ascending rows of round-headed arches, is the only one of its kind found in Venice today. Closed at the time of my discovery, I let my camera do the sightseeing.

Stumbling across Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) for the third time within half an hour, I decided it is time to experience a coffee at the iconic Café Florian in St Mark’s Square. Established in 1720, Café Florian is the oldest café in Venice and claims to be the oldest in the world. At the cost of €15 for my coffee, I knew it was an experience I would not be repeating.

As I wandered around Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Cathedral), marvelling at the brilliant mosaics, I wondered at the story of the two merchants from Alexandria in Egypt stealing St Mark’s body and bringing it back to Venice. And then there is the miracle of St Mark’s body reappearing in 1094 after being destroyed by fire in 976. St Mark’s body now lies in the Cathedral’s altar.

I experienced a sense of awe as I watched a fireboat race down the Grand Canal and disappeared into a side canal. My amazement was due to the unusual sight of a ‘fire engine’ being a boat and not a large truck. Later, I witnessed an ambulance maneuver into a narrow canal.

Day 2: San Polo and Santa Croce

The defined boundaries between San Polo and Santa Croce are not as clear-cut as those of Venice’s other four districts. Hence, their grouping together in this post and many guide books.

Crossing the Grand Canal from San Marco into San Polo via Rialto Bridge, my first stop this morning was Rialto Markets. Markets are a great way to gain an understanding of the local people; providing an insight into the local culture. As I wandered around the vegetable section of Rialto Markets and chatted to the stallholders, I learned the humble tomato is not so ordinary. Firstly, there are 25 tomato varieties in Italy. Secondly, no self-discerning vendor will sell you tomatoes without first knowing what you are cooking. To know it is imperative because they all have a different taste and must accompany the right dish. Only by understanding what you are cooking can the stall owner advise on just the correct type of tomato to use. I have to admit my palate is not up to Venetian tomato standards.

A white mask with open eyes and a long nose

The Plague Doctor Mask I bought from Tragicomica

 

Walking past San Giacomo di Rialto’s 15th-century 24-hour clock and through Campo San Polo, I found the shop Tragicomica on Calle dei Nomboli, San Polo 2800, which my research at home before leaving for Italy told me it sold traditional Venetian masks. The shop was crowded – with masks – and I wondered how I was ever going to find that special mask with my name on it. After a lengthy chat with Tragicomica’s artisan Mask Maker about the different types of masks and the history behind the masks, I bought an authentic Venetian, paper-mache Plague Doctor Mask, with its long beak-like nose. The beak was filled with herbs to protect the doctor from the plague.

 

Sitting in a café opposite the rear of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a large Gothic church commonly known as the Frari, I spent a pleasant hour just people watching. Even though Eyewitness Travel (Venice) describes the interior of the church as “striking for its sheer size and for the quality of its works of arts”, I did not venture inside. Instead, I wandered around the church’s exterior taking photos. The front of the church was very plain while the rear was much more impressive architecture.

Exterior of large brick church in gothic style with many windows

Rear view of the Gothic church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

 

Lunch today was at Pizzeria Cico in Campo San Polo. The food was edible but ordinary, and the Square was plain but great for people watching.

Day 3: Cannaregio

Today was my longest walk – 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) from my hotel, via Strada Nova to the Jewish Ghetto in the Cannaregio district. The walk took me longer than the said 21 minutes because I kept stopping to explore different areas, admire the architecture, and take photos.  And I had to stop for a coffee!

The Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, is a small, pretty Square with compelling monuments to the holocaust. Very tall buildings, unique in Venice, characterise Campo di Ghetto Nuovo. The tall buildings are due to the Jewish population being confined to a tiny area 500 years ago to segregate them from Venice’s Christian population. As the Jewish community grew and needed more housing, the only way was up.

The Ghetto’s five synagogues, unrecognisable from the Square, date back to the 16th century. Through the Jewish museum’s guided tour, the only way possible to see these hidden treasures, I discovered three of the five synagogues on the top floors of buildings – the French, German and Levantine, each representing a different ‘school’.

Back in Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, I contemplated the Holocaust memorials depicting Nazi brutality to the Jews during the Second World War.

The Holocaust Memorial on the brick wall in Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, created in 1980, comprises of seven bronze bas-relief plaques depicting deportation, Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the quarry, punishment, execution, the Warsaw Uprising, and the final solution. Nine years later saw the addition of another memorial, the Deportation Memorial, also called “the Last Train”. Carved on the wooden boards behind the Deportation Memorial is the name and age of each victim who was deported.

Before the long walk back to my hotel, I had lunch at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant. GAM GAM is located opposite the main entrance of the Jewish Ghetto on the Canale di Cannaregio – a great place to people-watch while enjoying a leisurely meal. I couldn’t resist ordering the house speciality, ‘Israeli Appetisers with Falafel’, served with the most delicious Italian bread. I was not disappointed and can honestly say this was the best meal I had in Venice.

With my feet crying ‘enough’, I took a traghetto (pedestrian transport) across the Grand Canal, alighting near Rialto Markets. Traghetti are cheap ‘pedestrian’ gondola ferries that just cross the Grand Canal from one side to the other. There are several points along the Grand Canal where you can pick up a traghetto. A traghetto will cost you (the tourist) 2 euros, while residents pay 70 cents. The crossing is so short that locals usually stand up in the traghetto. I sat! I didn’t trust my balance well enough not to end up in the Grand Canal. Did I save any walking distance? Probably not! But for about 6 minutes there, I felt like a real local and knew I had experienced something unique as tourists don’t usually use this mode of transport.

An open boat on water with people in it

A traghetto (pedestrian transport) crossing the Grand Canal

 

Day 4: Castello

From my hotel, a 15-minute walk this morning took me to the Arsenale in the Castello district. While primarily disused today and, except for exhibitions, closed to the public, the Arsenale was once the greatest naval shipyard in the world. A whole galley, using an assembly-line process, would be constructed in 24 hours. Two massive lion statues (the symbol of Venice) guard the gate to the Arsenale. Venice’s maritime past can be viewed in all its glory at the Naval History Museum, near the Arsenale. I found naval personnel a common sight around the Castello neighbourhood.

Clock tower beside a canal

The Arsenale

 

The largest of Venice’s six districts, Castello was a lovely area to walk around and lacked the tourist crowds found in neighbouring San Marco. My wandering took me to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Lined with restaurants, bars and cafés, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is Venice’s widest street due to it being a filled-in canal. Feeling hungry, I stopped for a sandwich and coffee at Hopera Coffee and Bakery on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Heading back towards Piazza San Marco, as I crossed Ponte Canonica, I saw for the first time Venice’s most famous and only covered bridge, the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). This little Baroque bridge spans the canal, Rio di Palazzo, between the New Prison in the Castello district and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) in the San Marco district. From Ponte Canonica, I had an uninterrupted view of the Bridge of Sighs for my camera to record the moment.

Covered bridge

The Bridge of Sighs

 

After a coffee and people watching from Ristorante Carpaccio on Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice’s most famous promenade, I took a tour of the Doge’s Palace and the New Prison. The tour included crossing the Bridge of Sighs. Walking across the Bridge, I sighed, just as legend has it that the prisoners did when they crossed the Bridge from the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to their cell or execution in the New Prison. Catching their last glimpse of Venice through the Bridge’s windows, they sighed, knowing they would never walk back the other way. I learned Casanova was the most famous person to have crossed the Bridge of Sighs on his way to his prison cell, from which he later escaped.

Close to my hotel was a gelato shop, Gelatoteca Suso, on Calle de la Bissa. Before heading back to my hotel, I decided I would try a gelato because everyone I met raved about Venetian gelato and this shop in particular. I am not a big ice cream fan, and this experience did not convert me.

Day 5: Island hopping – Murano and Burano

Before embarking on my trip to Venice, I had decided there were two things I wanted to buy – a Venetian mask and Murano glass jewellery. Having bought my Doctor Plague Mask in the San Polo district on day 2, I had that item crossed off my shopping list. Now I needed to concentrate on finding that right piece of Murano glass jewellery. The best way to do this was to go to Murano. So, I took a day tour of Murano and Burano islands. Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Venetian Lagoon, both islands are a short distance from Venice; with Murano being the closest.

Taking a private boat across the Lagoon, our first stop was Murano. Murano is world-famous for its glassmaking and has been since 1291. At this time, there was a forced removal of all the Venetian glassmakers to Murano. Woe betide the glassmaker who tried to leave the island. Any attempt to leave the island would result in severe penalties, including death. The tour included a visit to a glassmaking workshop and a demonstration by the in-house glass artisans. I always feel it is a privilege to watch artisans engaged in their craft. We were given free time following the glassmaking demonstration to shop and explore the island on our own.

Glassblowers in their workshop

Glassmakers working at their craft at a glassmaking factory on Murano

 

I was now on a mission – to find that piece of jewellery with my name on it (figuratively speaking). I looked through the showroom attached to the glassmaking workshop, but the jewellery was too glitzy, too fussy for my taste. I was not able to access other showrooms (in the hope of finding something more to my liking) as it is only possible to go into a showroom with a tour. With some free time still available, I tried my luck at small, individual jewellery shops. But they offered nothing better. I expressed my bitter disappointment to the tour guide. She offered to take me to a boutique jewellery shop on Burano, where I should find Murano glass jewellery more to my ‘no bling’ taste. Read on to find out why I will be forever grateful to this guide.

Leaving Murano, we motored to Burano. Burano is primarily a fishing village but is famous for its brightly coloured houses and handmade lace. After a lacemaking demonstration, my guide took me to the shop, Alessandro Tagliapietra Murano Glass Jewels. The owner of this small jewellery shop only sells what he makes. I had a lovely time choosing several pieces of handmade Murano glass jewellery – necklaces and earrings. So, I bought my Murano glass jewellery on Burano – go figure! Now totally satisfied, I wandered around Burano taking photos of the canals and coloured houses, chatting with the locals and discovering the 17th-century leaning bell tower.

There ends my self-guided, 5-day walking tour of Venice. Where will your feet take you?

When to go

I was in Venice in early May. According to the World Weather Organization, the average daytime temperature in Venice in May is 21.5OC (70.7OF), and the average number of rain days is 8.2.

The week I was in Venice, the daily temperature was around 23OC, but felt warmer. Perhaps all that water increases the humidity?

Being my first visit to Venice, and from what I had read, I expected tourists to be inundating Venice. I was pleasantly surprised by the reality of crowds in May. Sure, there were many tourists around St Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge, but in most other areas, I was virtually on my own.

In my opinion, May is an ideal time of year to visit Venice. Not too hot, not too cold, little chance of rain, and limited crowds.

Getting there and away

My time on my own in Venice followed an 8-day river cruise on the Po River. As such, I had two arrivals in Venice – the first at Venice Marco Polo International Airport and the second, at Venice’s pier Marittima 123 (where most cruise ships dock).

I first arrived in Venice, at Marco Polo Airport, on a flight that was 36 hours delayed. Consequently, I had missed my pre-arranged private transfer from the airport to the ship. As a result, I took the Alilaguna water bus (vaporetto) Red Line (Linea Rossa) service from the airport to the Arsenale stop (the closest stop to the ship). Catching public transport proved to be very easy; leaving me wondering why I had organised a private transfer in the first place. The Alilaguna water-bus Red Line runs only from April to September. I was in Venice in May. See Alilaguna for lines and timetables throughout the year.

My second arrival in Venice was at pier Marittima 123. From a nearby canal, I took a water taxi to my hotel (Hotel da Bruno); as opposed to the vaporetto. The travel guide, Eyewitness Travel, describes the water taxis as a means of transport for those short on time and with lots of money. While I was neither time-poor nor wealthy, I baulked at the thought of managing my bags through the crowds around Rialto Bridge; especially as I was unsure how far the hotel was from the Rialto stop. So, a water taxi it was! Ninety euros later, the water taxi dropped me off at the canal beside my hotel. I won’t do that again! Knowing now how easy it was to get around Venice by vaporetto, I will be catching public transport on my next visit to Venice.

From Venice, I took the train to Rome. A friend had advised me to allow one and a half hours to get from my hotel to Venice’s Santa Lucia train station. I don’t know how my friend managed to take so long to get to the train station because it took me half an hour maximum. The trip time included walking from my hotel to the Rialto vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal and catching the vaporetto to the train station, also on the Grand Canal. Dead easy!

Where I stayed

I stayed at the Hotel da Bruno for my five nights in Venice. This hotel is all about location, location. Being only a 5-minute walk to Rialto Bridge and a 6-minute walk to St Mark’s Square), it is well-positioned to explore all Venice has to offer on foot.

However, I was bitterly disappointed with my room. I had booked a single room and was shocked when I saw it. My room was no bigger than a broom closet. It was dark and dingy, with outdated, tired furniture. The view from my window was that of the air shaft. Not a place I wanted to be! I tried to upgrade to a double room, but there were none available. Hotel da Bruno’s only saving grace was its location.

Would I stay again at Hotel da Bruno? Yes. But I would ensure I had a double room. As the saying goes: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t! And location, for me, is paramount.

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps

 

For more on Italy, read: “The Sassi di Matera – from national shame to cultural showcase”

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Joanna Rath.
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AMAZING SILO ART – powerful connections of people and landscapes

Take a road trip with a difference – travel along the Silo Art Trail in Victoria, Australia. See how disused grain silos have been transformed into unusual, towering art canvases….

Take a road trip with a difference – travel along the Silo Art Trail in Victoria, Australia. See how disused grain silos have been transformed into unusual, towering art canvases. Each canvas is unique, with murals reflecting the people, landscape and culture of the community in which they appear.

Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (with the first being undertaken in 2015) have become a national phenomenon; appearing in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australian, South Australia, and Queensland. The silos provide a canvas for creations that are reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest and most remote regional towns. They have become a lifesaver for rural communities; bringing tourism to towns that have been seriously struggling due to economic decline. These towns now have a future.

Perhaps the best-known silo art project is the painted silos in Western Victoria; in the Wimmera Mallee region. Here, there are 6 painted silos stretching for a distance of 200 kilometres from Rupanyup in the south (if coming from Ballarat, as we did) to Patchewollock in the north. This is the Silo Art Trail.

My sister and I took a 12-day road trip around parts of Victoria at the end of April – from Albury to Bendigo, to Ballarat, to Hopetoun, to Sea Lake, to Rochester, and back to Albury. The road trip deliberately incorporated the Silo Art Trail in the Wimmera Mallee region as I had read so much about it and had a strong desire to see the murals for myself. This desire was heightened after visiting the silo art in North-East Victoria.

Silo Art Trail

The Silo Art Trail is Australia’s largest outdoor gallery. The trail stretches over 200 kilometres in Victoria’s Wimmera Mallee region; linking the towns of Rupanyup, Sheep Hills, Brim, Rosebery, Lascelles, and Patchewollock.

Victoria's Silo Art Trail map, Wimmera Mallee region

Silo Art Trail map, Victoria. Courtesy of Yarriambiack Shire Council, at http://siloarttrail.com

 

Providing an insight into the true spirit of the Wimmera Mallee, the trail recognises and celebrates the region’s people through a series of large-scale mural portraits painted onto grain silos, many of which date back to the 1930s.

The national and international artists whose murals appear on the silos spent time visiting the region and meeting the locals before transforming each grain silo into an epic work of art; with each mural telling a unique story about the host town.

The level of detail the artists have achieved in their murals is impressive. Something I find astonishing given the scale of the artworks. How do you create such fine detail with an aerosol can?

The Silo Art Trail was conceived in 2016 after the success of the first artwork in Brim. What started as a small community project by the Brim Active Community Group to save their town from extinction, resulted in widespread international media attention and an influx of visitors to the region and the idea for the trail was born.

The Silo Art Trail was created as a partnership between Yarriambiack Shire Council, international street art agency Juddy Roller, the Victorian Government, and the Australian Government; with the silos donated by GrainCorp as canvases for the artists’ works.

Whether in a car, motorhome or towing a caravan, parking is not a problem at any of the silos.

Why you should visit the Silo Art Trail

  • This is street art at its best.
  • The murals are painted on unusual canvases.
  • The silo artworks are in public spaces; in outdoor galleries that are open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And they are free to visit.
  • It is artwork on a massive scale. How many paintings do you know that require an extended cherry picker to complete?
  • The murals painted on the silos depict local community members; giving an insight into the area.
  • Grain silos have been ‘painted’ on Australia’s landscape since the 1920s.
  • The Silo Art Trail is Australia’s ultimate road trip.

Getting there

While the trip can be done in any direction, I am going to take you from Rupanyup in the south to Patchewollock in the north – the direction we took on our road trip.

From Melbourne to Bendigo is 151 kilometres (94 miles; approximately a 2-hour drive). From Bendigo to Rupanyup is 169 kilometres (105 miles; approximately a 2-hour drive)

From Melbourne to Ballarat is 112 kilometres (69 miles; a 1-hour and 39-minute drive). From Ballarat to Rupanyup is 177 kilometres (110 miles; a 2-hour drive).

As you can see, it is really neither here nor there as to whether you arrive in Rupanyup from Melbourne via Bendigo or via Ballarat. My preference would be to travel via Bendigo, an historic gold mining town with some of the best food we had on the whole road trip. Historic Bendigo Pottery is worth a visit. Don’t miss Bendigo Pottery’s museum.

Other helpful distances:

> From Bendigo to Patchewollock is 284 kilometres (176 miles). Allowing 30 minutes at each mural, the trip would take approximately 6 hours, 11 minutes.

> From Ballarat to Patchewollock is 332 kilometres (206 miles) allowing 30 minutes at each mural, the trip would take approximately 6 hours, 42 minutes.

> From Patchewollock to Sea Lake (possible accommodation option) is 73 kilometres (45 miles) – a 50-minute drive.

> From Patchewollock to Mildura (possible accommodation option) is 141 kilometres (88 miles) – a drive time of approximately 1 hour, 38 minutes.

> From Patchewollock to Swan Hill (possible accommodation option) is 145 kilometres (90 miles) – a drive time of approximately 1 hour, 36 minutes.

You don’t have to have to have a car to see the silo art. While we rarely saw anyone else at the silos, a quick internet search reveals there are bus tours from Melbourne (Victoria) and Albury (New South Wales) that travel the Silo Art Trail. However, it would appear they don’t visit all the silos.

Rupanyup silo art

Black & white painting of a girl and a boy in team uniforms on metal grain silos

Rupanyup silo art of young people from local sporting teams on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Completed early 2017, the faces featured on the silos are those of Rupanyup residents and local sporting team members, Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. Dressed in their sports uniforms (netball and Australian Rules football, respectively), the mural captures the spirit of community while honouring the integral role that sport and community play in rural Australia.

Rupanyup’s silo art is the work of Russian mural artist, Julia Volchkova. The monochromatic work is typical of Volchkova’s realist portraiture style. And avid traveller, her frequent travels have resulted in numerous large-scale murals of local people in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere around the world.

Sheep Hills silo art

Brightly coloured painting of 4 Australian Aboriginals on concrete grain silos

Sheep Hills silo art of Aboriginal Australians on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Melbourne-based artist, Adnate is known for using his artwork to tell stories of Indigenous people and their native lands; particularly those of Aboriginal Australians. He painted the mural on the silos at Sheep Hills in 2016 after spending 4 weeks with the community. He found his inspiration for the mural after developing a friendship with the Barengi Gadin Land Council in North-East Victoria.

Through his portraits of Wergaia Elder, Uncle Ron Marks, and Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Regina Hood, alongside two young children, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald, Adnate celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture.

The night sky in the mural represents elements of local dreaming and the overall image signifies the important exchange of wisdom, knowledge and customs from Elders to the next generation.

Featuring a bold use of block colours via acrylic and spray paint, Adnate’s portraits are known for introducing a strong energetic presence to their surroundings. Described as “life-like” and “emotive”, his large-scale murals can be found in various settings throughout Australia and around the world; including the mural he painted inside Goorambat’s Uniting Church in North-East Victoria.

Brim silo art

Paintings on 3 men and 1 woman farmers on concrete grain silos

Brim silo art of multi-generational male and female farmers on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Although the third silo artwork along the Silo Art Trail (travelling from Melbourne), the mural painted on the disused GrainCorp silos at Brim was the first to be painted in Victoria and was the inspiration for the Silo Art Trail.

Painted by world renown Australian street artist, Guido van Helten, his mural of four, anonymous, multi-generational farmers (3 men and 1 woman) was completed in January 2016. Van Helten’s subjects bear expressions that exemplify the strength and resilience of the local farming community as they face immense economic pressure and the tangible consequences of climate change. His work captures the spirit of the local area and connects the characters to their chosen place; infusing the landscape with a comforting, familiar presence.

Celebrating everyday characters in forgotten places, van Helten’s monochromatic, photorealistic style offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of others. His large-scale portraiture murals, found in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland, tell stories of culture, history and identity in an effort to capture the soul of people and place.

Rosebery silo art

Painting of cowgirl, horseman and horse on concrete grain silo

Rosebery silo art of female farmer and horseman with his horse on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

The silo on the left captures the grit, tenacity and character of the region’s young female farmers, who regularly face drought, fires and other hardships living and working in the Wimmera Mallee. In her work shirt, jeans and turned-down cowboy boots, the strong young female sheep farmer symbolises the future.

The silo on the right portrays the familiar connection between man and horse. The contemporary horseman appears in Akubra hat, Bogs boots and oilskin vest – common attire for Wimmera Mallee farmers. Both man and horse are relaxed and facing downward, indicating their mutual trust, love and genuine connection.

Completed in late 2017 by the successful, internationally renowned street artist, Kaff-eine, her Rosebery mural depicts themes that she says embody the region’s past, present and future.

Combining creativity with a strong social conscience, Kaff-eine makes art and film projects in marginalised communities around the world, with her work inviting audiences to engage with social and political issues. Kaff-eine describes her practice from photorealistic to darkly sensual stylised characters as “loaded with symbolism and narrative”.

Lascelles silo art

The murals here of the local farming couple, Geoff and Merrilyn Horman can never be photographed together because they are on opposite sides of two grain silos. The Horman’s are part of a family who have lived and farmed in the area for four generations.

Painted by Rone in mid-2017, he wanted the mural to portray his subjects as wise and knowing; nurturing the town’s future with their vast farming experience and longstanding connection to the area.

Rone worked for two weeks to transform the two 1939-built GrainCorp silos. He went to great lengths to paint in the silo’s existing raw concrete tones to produce a work that would integrate sensitivity into its environment. Utilising this muted monochrome palette, he added water to his paint as a blending tool to produce a ghostly, transparent effect – a signature of his distinctive painting style.

An influential figure in Australia’s early street art scene, Rone is perhaps best known for his large-scale “Jane Doe” portraits, featuring beautiful young women painted onto old, decaying backgrounds. This interplay between beauty and decay is a key theme throughout his work; emphasising the fleeting nature of beauty and encouraging audiences to appreciate it while it lasts.

Patchewollock silo art

Coloured painting of a young man on outdoor concrete grain silo

Patchewollock silo art of local farmer, Nick “Noodle” Holland on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

To prepare his Patchewollock mural, Brisbane artist, Fintan Magee booked a room at the local pub to immerse himself in the local community and to get to know its people. When he met local sheep and grain farmer, Nick “Noodle” Hulland, Magee knew he had found his subject.

Coloured painting of the face of a young man on a concrete grain silo

The face of local farmer, Nick Holland on the Patchewollock silo on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Why Hulland? According to Magee, the rugged, lanky local exemplified the no-nonsense, hardworking spirit of the region. Perhaps more importantly though, Noodle had just the right height and leanness to neatly fit onto the narrow, 35-metre-high canvas of the twin 1939-built GrainCorp silos.

Completed in late 2016, the Magee’s depiction of the famously reserved Hulland portrays an image of the archetypical Aussie farmer – faded blue “flanny” (flannelette shirt) and all. Hulland’s solemn expression, sun-bleached hair and squinting gaze speak to the harshness of the environment and the challenges of life in the Wimmera Mallee.

 

Combining surreal and figurative imagery with a trained artist’s discipline and technical skill, Magee’s work explores global themes and climate change, displacement and migration, as well as environmental issues such as his family’s experience in the devasting 2011 Brisbane floods. Understanding that not everyone has access to art galleries, Magee aims to make art more accessible to isolated communities and general public.

 

The addition of Sea Lake silo art

In October 2019 (after our visit), Sea Lake, just a 50-minute drive from Patchewollock, completed a mural on its town silos, donated by GrainCorp. Thus, joining Victoria’s Silo Art Trail.

The mural, painted by Drapl and The Zookeeper, depicts a young indigenous girl swinging from a Mallee Eucalyptus tree as she gazes over Lake Tyrrell. A powerful Wedge Tail Eagle soars above the girl and emus run off into the night.

Lake Tyrrell is a large inland saltwater lake; an 8-minute drive from Sea Lake. The water in the lake is never more than ankle deep; creating fabulous reflections, especially at sunset. This was the reason we stayed at Sea Lake.  But more about that in another post.

When to go

Autumn, in my opinion, March to May, is the best time in Australia. The sting of intense heat wanes, the bush comes alive, the landscape changes colour, the desert sprouts, and the people wake from their summer stupor.

Where to eat

Sub-standard food (with a few exceptions), poor food choices due to limited options, or non-existent food outlets, was a common theme throughout the whole road trip. At one point, my sister noted in her journal that the food situation was making her unhappy as she was not eating well (and not from choice).

I make two suggestions here:

  1. Eat up big in Bendigo or Ballarat because it’s the last decent meal you will have until after you leave the Silo Art Trail; and
  2. Buy snacks in Bendigo or Ballarat before heading up the Silo Art Trail. If you find you haven’t bought enough or are sick of what you did buy, you can stock up at the supermarket in Warracknabeal. We made the mistake of eating lunch at the local Chinese restaurant in Warracknabeal because that was what we felt like. Big mistake! However, the chocolate biscuits I bought at the local supermarket were yum and eaten before my sister could blink. Did she want some?

We had a number of good meals in Bendigo. Our first breakfast was at The Boardwalk on Lake Weeroona (28 Nolan street). The service was faultless and the food here was so good we ate breakfast at The Boardwalk each morning of our stay in Bendigo. I couldn’t resist the Gourmet Fruit Loaf with Bacon.

Have lunch at The Rifle Bridge Hotel, 137 View Street, Bendigo. Talk about a yummy salad – Chicken and Macadamia Nut Salad with Beetroot, Pear and Figs.

For dinner, Masons of Bendigo, at 25 Queen Street, is a must. Plating is modern Australian, with all dishes (starters, mains and deserts) designed to be shared. We received excellent service from friendly, informative staff. Awarded “One Chef Hat” in Australia’s Good Food Guide in 2016 and 2017, reservations are essential.

On our first night in Ballarat, we ate at The Forge Pizzeria (14 Armstrong Street) as it was recommended in the Ballarat tourist information booklet. The restaurant was packed, which is always a good sign. My sister enjoyed her pizza, but it was a poor food choice for me as I am not all that keen on pizza.

The next day we had lunch at L’Espresso café (417 Sturt Street). A very popular café (people waiting to be seated) with efficient service and, we both commented, excellent food. That night, we ate at The Gallery Restaurant in the Craig’s Royal Hotel where we were staying (10 Lydiard Street). We had mixed feelings regarding our meals here. I thoroughly enjoyed my main course and desert. But my sister was not impressed with her meal.

In Rosebery, after viewing the silo art, we passed an old church 228 metres down the road with a sign out the front advertising scones and cream. This couldn’t be real! We were in the middle of nowhere! Turning around, we discovered the old church was now a café, Mallee Sunsets Gallery Café, and did indeed, have scones with jam and cream on its menu. This we couldn’t resist. Together with the best ice coffee I probably have ever had (I watched her put 6 scoops of ice cream in my ice coffee), I was in heaven.

The story of this once Presbyterian Church really brought home how much these small, remote farming communities are struggling. It stopped being a church in 1990 because there were only 5 people left in the congregation. The church’s closure divided the community as those 5 people then had to attend services in Warracknabeal or Hopetoun. Three went one way and two went the other.

Our final silo art on the Silo Art Trail was at Patchewollock. Looking to eat after viewing the mural of ‘Noodle”, we had two options: the café that only sold sausage rolls they could heat in a microwave or the Pub. We settle for toasted sandwiches at the “Patche Pub”.

From Patchewollock, we headed to Sea Lake for two nights. At the time, the only meals available for dinner were dispensed from a vending machine at the motel and were disgusting. There were two cafes open for breakfast but one closed at 5.30pm (too early for dinner) and the other advertised they close at 8.30pm. But not this night! They had two tourist coaches in town and had shut the café to all other people. At the time of our stay in Sea Lake, the hotel was being renovated and is now open for accommodation and meals. Bonus!

So, being very, very hungry by this stage in our travels, on our second day in Sea Lake, we drove 45 minutes to Spoons Riverside Café and Restaurant in Swan Hill for lunch. Spoons Riverside is in a beautiful location, overlooking the Murray River. I ate far too much, but the food was so yummy.

You would be forgiven for thinking that our focus was on food and not the massive artworks we had come to see. But when you experience such awful food and wonder where your next decent meal is going to come from, it’s hard to shift your focus. Having said that, I believe everyone should experience and contemplate the connectedness between people and landscape that the Silo Art Trail depicts. Just be prepared.

Where to stay

Being influenced by tourist information advising that Hopetoun is a great base for exploring the gigantic artworks that comprise the Silo Art Trail, we broke our journey for the night in Hopetoun. Both my sister and I strongly recommend you don’t do this. The only accommodation in town was very basic (that I can live with), but my room was filthy. On top of this, our food choices were extremely limited and tasteless.

The Quality Hotel Lakeside in Bendigo (our ‘home’ for 3 night), at 286 Napier Street, is located opposite Lake Weeroona and a stone’s throw from ‘The Boardwalk’ where we had breakfast each morning. A modern hotel, our balconied rooms were very large, with king-sized bed, comfortable lounge, writing desk and tea/coffee making facilities. The hotel also had a guest laundry.

In Ballarat, we stayed at Craig’s Royal Hotel – 10 Lydiard Street, South Ballarat. Located in the historical part of Ballarat across the road from Her Majesty Theatre, this luxury boutique hotel was comfort plus with an old-world charm. Craig’s Royal Hotel has been a Ballarat icon since 1853.

The drive from Ballarat to Sea Lake, at 405 kilometres, or from Bendigo to Sea Lake, at 357 kilometres, can be done in one day. This is not excessive and easily accomplished with plenty of time to view each of the silo artworks. Don’t make the mistake we made stopping for the night along the Silo Art Trail.

In Sea Lake we stayed at the Sea Lake Motel on the Calder Highway (93 Railway Avenue, Sea Lake). Our room (the only time we shared a room on this road trip) was small and basic, but clean. The now renovated Hotel (pub) on the main street in town may be a better accommodation option.

Painting of your man on concrete grain silo and yellow car near silo

Patchewollock silo art of Nick Holland and car. The end of Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

What did surprise me was the lack of infrastructure to support tourism along the Silo Art Trail. I’m not referring to the roads. They were in good condition that my little car had no trouble traversing. If the Silo Art Trail has any hope of encouraging financial sustainability of the towns in questions through tourism and saving them from extinction, then appropriate places to eat and sleep are crucial. We would have seen a maximum of 3 other couples visiting these murals. I can understand that people are loathe to open cafes and accommodation when the tourists aren’t there to generate a viable business enterprise. It’s a bit like which comes first, the chicken or the egg. What are your thoughts on this?

 

 

I would like to leave you with a comment from my sister as she summed up her experience of the Silo Art Trail.

“At first I was not overwhelmed by the silo art. But on reflection, the use of these giant canvases to reflect community has been interesting and something to remember. Some of them, and their place in the landscape, have affected me. It would be good to go back and look at them quietly and reflect on the landscape.”

For my sister, the people in the murals were of the landscape. Her desire to return is based on a need to further examine the connection between landscape and the art themselves.

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless specifically stated, all photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

For more on Australia’s silo art, read:

Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna

3 of the Best Things to See and Do in Rochester

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UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA

In mid-April 2019, I travelled with a group of friends to view North East Victoria’s silo artwork. Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (with the…

In mid-April 2019, I travelled with a group of friends to view North East Victoria’s silo artwork.

Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (with the first being undertaken in 2015) have become a national phenomenon; appearing in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australian, South Australia, and Queensland. The silos provide a canvas for creations that are reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest and remote regional towns. They have become a lifesaver for rural communities; bringing tourism to towns that have been seriously struggling due to economic decline. These towns now have a future.

Perhaps the best known are the painted silos in western Victoria; in the Wimmera-Mallee region. These 6 painted silos stretch for a distance of 200 kilometres from Rupanyup in the south to Patchewollock in the north.

I will be taking a road trip with my sister to these painted silos at the end of April. But that is for another post.

Silo art North East Victoria map

Google map of North East Victoria silo art trail

North East Victoria’s painted silos are located in four small towns between Yarrawonga and Benalla – Tungamah, St James, Devenish and Goorambat.  They are fairly recent attractions to these town, with the first being painted in 2018 and are within close proximity to each other – a distance of 33 kilometres from first to last.

Why you should see the silo artworks

  • This is street art at its best.
  • The murals are painted on an unusual ‘canvas’.
  • The artworks are in a public space; in open-air galleries that are open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And they are free to visit.
  • It is artwork on a massive scale. How many paintings do you know that require an extended cherry picker to complete?
  • The murals painted on the silos depict local history and fauna; giving an insight into the area.
  • The silos themselves have been ‘painted’ on Australia’s rural landscape since the 1920s.

Getting there

Silo art map Tungamah north east Victoria

Google map of Wodonga to Tungamah silo art

 

Coming from Wodonga, North East Victoria’s silo artworks are an easy one-day road trip. From this direction, the first painted silos are at Tungamah; about 1 and a half hours from Wodonga.

Leaving Wodonga on the M31 (Sydney to Melbourne freeway), turn off at the Rutherglen/Yarrawonga exit (B400; Murray Valley Highway). At Rutherglen, take the C372 to Tungamah; skirting the towns of Bundalong South, Yarrawonga South and Boomahnoomoonah (no, I have not made up this name).

Coming from Melbourne is not, in my opinion, a day road trip. The first painted silos from this direction are at Goorambat – a distance of 228 kilometres; taking about 2 and a half hours. Staying overnight in Benalla might be a good option.

From Melbourne, take the M31 (Melbourne to Sydney freeway) to Benalla. At Benalla, take the A300 to Goorambat.

Silo art north east Victoria map

Google map of Melbourne to Goorambat silo art

 

Tungamah silo art

The Tungamah concrete silo highlights Australia’s dancing Brolga. Famed for their elaborate courtship dance, Brolgas are Australia’s most iconic birds. There is even an Australian Christmas carol about dancing Brolgas.

A number of traditional Aboriginal legends and dances are associated with the Brolga, with movements mimicking their graceful performance.

The Kookaburra painted on the metal silo is a well-known symbol of Australia’s birdlife. The Kookaburra is also the inspirational subject of a children’s song.

Silo art at Tungamah north east Victoria

Silo art of dancing brolgas and kookaburra at Tungamah

 

Western Australian street artist, Sobrane painted the birdlife on the Tungamah silos using spray cans and roller. Internationally known for her signature bird inspired art, Sobrane is the first Australian female artist to take on a silo art project.

St James silo art

The wheat silos at St James are painted with a sepia-toned portrait of Sir George Coles, the founder of Coles supermarkets and a local of St James. His first store opened in 1910 in St James township; with the shopfront captured on the silo under his portrait.

The horse and cart being painted at the time of my visit on the third silo depicts how the wheat was originally delivered to the silos.

Silo art at St James in north east Victoria

Silo art of C.J. Coles at St James in north east Victoria

Local artist, Timothy Bowtell painted the murals on the St James silos. Timothy is due to complete the horse and cart mural by the end of April 2019.

Devenish silo art

Focusing on the role of nurses in service and how that role has evolved over time, this artwork is a visual tribute to the 50 young men and women from the Devenish community who enlisted in military service in the First World War. The artwork represents the historical image of a First World War nurse juxtaposed with that of a female combat medic.

Melbourne street artist, Cam Scale, has captured the past and present and acknowledges the important role our medical personnel play in caring for military and civilians during wars and national disasters, including peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

At the time of visit, Cam was putting the finishes touches to the Lighthorseman he has painted on Devenish’s final silo.

ANZAC silo art Devenish north east Victoria

ANZAC silo art at Devenish with artist at work

 

Cam Scale is a well-renown fine artist and mural painter in Australia; exhibiting work in galleries across Australia and internationally.

Cam works primarily with aerosol, oil and acrylic, specialising in large-scale figures and portraits.

Goorambat silo art

The Barking Owl painted on the concrete silo is a tribute to this endangered species. With fewer than 50 breeding pairs in the wild, the Barking Owl is the most threatened owl in Victoria. North East Victoria remains a stronghold for wild populations.

Ironbark is the Barking Owl’s habitat. This tree is depicted in the forefront of the typical, Australiana farming scene on the second silo.

The third silo features three Clydesdale horses that resided in Goorambat. Clydesdales are an intricate part of the Goorambat area. They are literally the work-horses of the country and rural areas like Goorambat might not exist without them.

Jimmy Dvate is a Melbourne based artist and graphic designer. He is passionate about conservation and is particularly keen to highlight the plight of endangered species.

While in Goorambat, don’t miss the beautiful mural of “Sophia” painted by the artist, Adnate inside Goorambat’s Uniting Church. Painted in 2017, Sophia was created to depict the female aspect of the Holy Spirit. This tradition draws on the spirit of God as it manifested in the Old Testament times and the post Pentecostal period. Sophia is by nature wise, nurturing, comforting, inspirational and ever present.

Goorambat Uniting Church mural

‘Sophia’ mural painting in the Uniting Church at Goorambat

 

You can visit “Sophia” daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

Where to eat

We had morning tea, cake and coffee, at the Tungamah Hotel. I recommend the lemon slice.

We lunched at Goorambat’s Railway Hotel. With an extensive, reasonably priced menu, we were spoilt for choice. My hamburger was delicious.

 

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Clydesdale horses painted on metal silo at Goorambat

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless specifically stated, all photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

 

For more on Australia, read:

Food is Free Laneway Engages Authentic Community Spirit

3 of the Best Things to See and Do in Rochester

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FIRST 24 HOURS IN GALLE FORT, SRI LANKA

Travel magazines and tour companies have named Sri Lanka as one of the destinations for 2019 – a must see, bucket list destination. I travelled to Sri Lanka with my sister…

Travel magazines and tour companies have named Sri Lanka as one of the destinations for 2019 – a must see, bucket list destination.

I travelled to Sri Lanka with my sister and brother-in-law for a 23-day trip around this teardrop shaped island. This was a private tour with our own driver. However, it is also possible to travel around Sri Lanka by taxi, bus or train.

I still hold mixed feelings about my trip to Sri Lanka. After all, we can’t always expect to like everything about every country we visit. That said, Sri Lanka held some highlights for me that are well worth mentioning, such as walking the railway line between Ella and Demodara and our visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s garden. I also highly recommend visiting Galle Fort. In fact, it is worth staying at least a couple of nights.

Galle Fort is a historical fortified city, with the New Town of Galle located outside the walls. Galle is situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka – a distance of 126 kilometres (78 miles) down the west coast from Colombo (Sri Lanka’s capital).

Why visit Galle Fort

Galle Fort is rich in history; with 400 years of history spaning Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialism. Built by the Portuguese in 1589, the Dutch seized the Fort in 1640 and extended its fortifications, which survive to this day. The British modified the Fort after Galle was handed over to them in 1796. Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains the best example in south and southeast Asia of a fortified city built by Europeans.

Galle Fort is protected by a wall (ramparts), with 14 bastions, that has seen little change since completion by the Dutch in 1729. The fortifications run for 3 kilometres and are over 1 metre thick. Inside the Fort is a mixture of architecture, with Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, and grand mansions. Here you will find cafés, restaurants, boutiques, museums, and hotels. It is also a thriving commercial centre.

With an area of only 0.52 kilometres square within the fortifications and being relatively flat, Galle Fort is easy to walk around and to see everything. It is also a good base for day trips to the southern beaches, gardens, tea factories, rain forests, and nature walks.

From Colombo to Galle Fort

At the suggestion of our driver we took the coast road to Galle rather than the expressway. While taking the expressway would have been quicker (approximately 1.5 hours as opposed to approximately 3 hours), the coast road, according to our driver, is more interesting; more scenic. And it was. Hugging the coastline, we passed through many small villages which provided a glimpse into local daily life; where farmers and fishermen continue to live and work as they have done for generations.

This was our first real experience of driving in Sri Lanka. I have been in many a country where I thought the population as a whole are terrible drivers, but Sri Lankan drivers take the prize. Their idea or practice of passing is downright scary. Picture this … You have a two-lane road just wide enough for two cars, with one lane for each direction. Suddenly, your lane has three vehicles abreast (including your own, with your driver on his mobile phone) as two vehicles want to pass one, and there is a bus coming in the opposite direction. No one gives way as all four vehicles come abreast and all you can do is close your eyes and hold your breath. And yet, I never saw an accident.

I learned a valuable lesson on this drive – don’t ever think of doing a self-drive holiday in Sri Lanka as you may never survive the experience. Their driving and use of the roads are, for these foreigners, positively frightening. My brother-in-law was never able to relax when we were driving. For some reason, he always managed to get the seat with a clear view out the front windscreen. Causing him to remain transfixed on the traffic and in a perpetual state of anxiety.

Galle Fort 

We arrived in Galle Fort mid-afternoon. Our hotel for the duration of our stay in Galle Fort was the Fort Bazaar, inside the Fort itself.

The Fort Bazaar (at 26 Church Street, Galle Fort) was formerly a 17th century merchant’s townhouse.  Opening in 2016 in its current status as a small, boutique spa hotel, its 18 rooms are very spacious, cool and furnished with comfortable four-poster beds. Unfortunately, at the time of stay (April 2017), the pool and spa were not yet completed, and they were still waiting on a liquor licence. However, it is in a very central location within the Fort and complimentary tea and cakes were served daily between 3.00 and 4.00pm. My kind of hotel. I could not fault the staff, who were friendly, attentive and helpful. Sri Lankan hospitality at its best.

Note: The Fort Bazaar, according to a recent view of its website, now has a pool, a spa, and a liquor licence.

Due to the lack of a liquor licence (which did not suit at all), we booked dinner in the restaurant at the Galle Fort Hotel (at 28 Church Street), which came recommended by guide books.

The Galle Fort Hotel was a former gem merchant’s mansion. The restaurant’s setting was picture perfect, with the tables set up on the wide veranda overlooking the pool and garden.

However, dinner was less than ordinary, and the service was very slow even though there were only a few diners. In the heat and humidity, all we wanted was a cold drink to start with. But, once seated, we were suddenly invisible. We were starving by the time they remembered to take our meal orders. We do not recommend the restaurant in the Galle Fort Hotel.

A walk around Galle Fort

Over dinner, we decided to make an early start for our walk around Galle Fort, its bastions and ramparts (walls) the next day, so that our walk would be completed before the day got too hot. In hindsight, it makes no difference in April, heat-wise, what time of day you venture out as it is always very hot and wet (humidity, not rain).

On this day that we decided to do our walk, the humidity was 80% and caused some havoc with our DSLR cameras – fogged up lenses and constant error messages. While I have never found out conclusively if these problems were due to the humidity, it is certainly something to be aware of.

The humidity also impacted on my clothing. I wasn’t just dripping perspiration, I was completely wet. I was wearing a dark pink t-shirt that I had washed several times prior to this trip. However, the pink dye was coming out of my t-shirt. It stained my body, and my camera strap and my camera where they were touching the t-shirt. To top it off, the colour was completed bleached out of the t-shirt where my backpack was touching it – to the point where my t-shirt looked as though it had been tie-dyed.

After a leisurely breakfast at the Fort Bazaar of fresh fruit, bacon and eggs, and freshly ground coffee, we set off on our self-guided tour (walk) of Galle Fort.

Galle Fort map

(Map courtesy of the Fort Bazaar)

 

All Saints Church in Galle Fort Sri Lanka

All Saints Anglican Church

Walking up Church Street (Galle Fort’s main thoroughfare) towards the main gate and the Clock Tower, we passed All Saints Anglican Church (its stumpy steeple, a distinctive landmark) and the Maritime Archaeological Museum

Galle Fort dutch church tombstones

The tombstones laid in the floor of the Dutch Reform Church

Our first stop was at the Dutch Reform Church. Originally built in 1640, the floor of the Dutch Reform Church is laid with tombstones which were moved there from the Dutch cemeteries. The oldest of which dates from 1662. There are more tombstones in the grounds of the church.

Leaving the Dutch Reform Church, we continued up Church Street, making our way to the Clock Tower; our starting point for our walk along the Fort’s ramparts.

Heading east and past the Main Gate, we walked up onto the ramparts at the Moon Bastion with its Clock Tower that was built by the British in 1882. From here we were able to look down the ramparts (east and west) to the Star Bastion and Sun Bastion.

This is the most heavily fortified section of the ramparts as they protect the most vulnerable side of the Fort – the northern landward side. Galle Fort is surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean.

For those cricket fans…These northern ramparts provide a good view of the Galle International Cricket Stadium outside the Fort. This massive, 30,000-seater stadium has hosted more than 100 one day international matches. Australian bowler, Shane Warne claimed his 500th Test wicket at the Stadium in 2004. In 2010, Sri Lanka’s legendary cricket player, Muttiah Muralitharan played his last match at this venue. However, as at July 2018, the Galle Stadium was a risk of loosing its UNESCO World Heritage status due to the unauthorised construction of the 500-seat pavilion.

Turning south, we came to the Fish Market Bastion, where we left the ramparts to walk through Court Square. Here we stopped at the Old Gate. This was the original entrance to the Fort, with the Fort side of the gate inscribed with the Dutch East India Company’s coat of arms. The port side of the gate is adorned with a British crest (which replaced the original Dutch crest).

Court Square is shaded by magnificent, massive banyan trees with branches that seem to spread forever. The Square houses the law courts (with the lawyers standing around in their black suits) and the Old Dutch Hospital (now home to shops and cafes).

Galle Fort lighthouse

Galle Fort lighthouse on Point Utrecht Bastion

 

Heading south down Hospital Street, we found ourselves at Point Utrecht Bastion which is dominated by the lighthouse. Built in 1938 and standing 18 metres high, the lighthouse is still in use.

At the lighthouse, we climb back up onto the wall; walking along the southern rampart towards Flag Rock. Along this southern section of the wall, families were gathered on the shaded grass; picnicking and playing cricket.

Walking past the Meeran Jumma Mosque (which looks very much like a European Baroque church), we came to Flag Rock located on the southern-most end of the Fort. People dive from Flag Rock into the ocean – described as daring free-style divers. I did see one young man run along the top of the rock and dive from it. “Idiot” might be a better description than “daring”. “Clearly potty” is how one guide book describes these jumpers. Perhaps they have insider knowledge of exactly where the submerged rocks are?

 

We finally headed north as the ramparts hugged the west coast. We ended our ramble along Galle Fort’s ramparts near the army barracks, just before the Clock Tower where we had begun. Here we cut across the village green, past the Army Barracks as I had thrown a hissy fit; being upset that we were still walking in the heat. This was a short cut back to our hotel and a welcomed decision.

The guide books and tourist brochures inform you the walk along the ramparts will take 90 minutes. We took almost twice that length of time due to the heat and constant stopping to take photos. It’s surprising how hard it is to lift your feet when weighed down by heat and humidity!

We made a couple more stops before heading back to our hotel for a well-earned rest in a lovely cool room.

A long cool drink on the wide veranda of the luxury Amangalla Hotel was warranted before visiting the Manor House Museum (at 31-39 Leyn Baan Street – entrance is free). This is a private collection of antiques and miscellaneous objects (described by one guide book as “outright junk”). The collection belongs to Abdul Gaffar, a local gem merchant, and is on display in a restored Dutch house. In my opinion, Gaffar has a serious hoarding problem, with rooms and cabinets stuffed full of old typewriters, cameras, telephones, crockery, spectacles, jewellery and old Chinese memorabilia. To describe this collection as bazaar is being very kind and generous. It was just downright weird! For that reason alone, it is worth the visit. The museum does provide insight into some traditional crafts with presentations of lace embroidery, gem cutting and jewellery making. However, be cautious if you suffer from asthma because the museum is very, very dusty.

Lunch was at the Serendipity Arts Café; recommended by one guide book as a place to eat. The food was good (had a very tasty chicken club sandwich – not very imaginative of me) but I would not recommend it as it was not atmospheric; as was foretold.

We were back at the Fort Bazaar in time for a rest before partaking of the hotel’s scheduled afternoon tea and cakes served on the terrace.

This night we had dinner at The Fort Printers (39 Pedlar Street). This elegant, small private hotel (a restored 18th century mansion) was a printing facility in its former life. The original printing press is on show in the lobby of the hotel. We had discovered this hotel on our morning walk. I found the menu limiting as I am allergic to seafood and this was the speciality of the house. My sister and brother-in-law do not suffer from the same affliction and loved the menu choices. However, the menu did include chicken, lamb and vegetarian dishes. The restaurant is in a lovely setting in a courtyard around a small pool. We were tucked into an alcove at the side of the courtyard that afforded a good level of privacy. Which was just as well as our conversation became quite lively and animated. Even so, we were not forgotten. The staff were friendly, attentive, knowledgeable about their menu, and ready to answer any questions we had. The food was so good, we went back a second night.

And so, our first 24 hours comes to an end. But not so our stay in Galle Fort as we spent a further day venturing outside of the Fort and into the countryside beyond; visiting the Martin Wickramasinghe Museum, Kataluwa Temple, the coastal village of Willgama, and a final stop at the Peace Pagoda. But that’s another story.

 

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Palm trees on a beach with a rock wall in front and the sea behind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and unsponsored. Unless specifically stated, all photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

Check out these related posts:

A Photographic Tour of Geoffrey Bawa’s Garden

Walking the Line in Sri Lanka from Ella to Demodara

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