Fort Kochi, primarily a fishing village in pre- colonial Kerala, is now a throbbing tourist hub. With the Portuguese, Dutch, English and Arabs coming ashore for trade purposes the city offers a mixed culture and heritage. Almost every nook and corner holds something interesting for the travellers. Tourists can slouch lazily on the beach or travel inside to look at the must-see architecture scattered across town. The wide variety of cultures has left its taste on the cuisine which reflects the tastes of the Dutch and Portuguese. It takes one down the memory lane to the colonial times. So get set to relax, have fun and gain knowledge. Here are some places of interest one must visit while they are in Fort Kochi.
Santa Cruz Basilica
The Santa Cruz Basilica, which is more than 500 years old, has a remarkable past dating back to the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500. The Basilica has magnificient Indo-European and Gothic architecture and the grandeur in the use of colour. Mention must be made of the beautiful painting of "The Passion and Death on The Cross" by Moscheni and also his imitation of "The Last Supper".
Pic Credit: Sudheesh S
St. Francis Church
The St. Francis Church, well known for its beautiful architecture were built by the Europeans when they visited India. It has a cenotaph at its center built in rememberance of the Kochites who laid down their lives in World War 1. The body of the famous explorer Vasco Da Gama was first buried here after which his body was taken back to Portugal.
Pic Credit: Adam Jones
Down the road from the St. Francis Church stands the Dutch Cemetery which is believed to be the oldest in the country. The cemetery styled in Dutch architecture has the year 1724 engraved on the entrance pillar. The epitaphs and tombs carry the authentic records of the Dutch and British buried here. The Cemetery is mostly kept closed but is opened on request by visitors.
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The Bishop's House in Kochi is situated on a small hillock near the Parade Ground. Originally built as the residence of the Portuguese Governor in 1506, it came under the control of the Dutch when they conquered it in 1663. In 1888, Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th bishop of the diocese of Kochi acquired it and named it the Bishop's House. Visitors are welcomed by the walk through the lush green circular garden path to the main entrance.
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The Indo-Portuguese Museum is located within the premises of the Bishop's House. It displays various artefacts collected from different churches. It houses an invaluable collection that reveals the Portuguese legacy in Fort Kochi. These collections are divided into five main sections namely Altar, Treasure, Procession, Civil Life and Cathedral.
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Fort Kochi Beach
The Fort Kochi beach holds perhaps one of the most photographed travel images in Kerala, the sight of the famous Chinese Fishing Nets. The trees and greenery on the walkway to the beach adds to its serene atmosphere. The famous Cochin Carnival is conducted on these beaches. The sea food, the Vasco Da Gama Square and the lighthouse are other attractions.
Pic Credit: Connie Ma
Chinese Fishing Nets
The huge Chinese fishing nets that hang like oversized hammocks over the waters have become a trademark of Fort Kochi. Called Cheenavala in Malayalam, these nets are believed to have been introduced in Kochi by the Chinese traveller Zheng He. The nets were introduced on the Kochi shores between 1350 and 1450 AD. Once just a fishing net, it is now a big bait for tourists who flock here to see it. The sight of them suspended in midair and standing in line on the beaches against the sunset is undoubtedly beautiful.
Pic Credit: Chandika Nair
Princess Street in Fort Kochi is one of the oldest streets in the city and is lined by bungalows built in European style. These buildings with their bronze stucco walls and peeling plaster, house antique shops, cigar shops, cafes, restuarants and lodges. One can go to the Loafer's Corner cafe to get the best view of the street.
Pic Credit: Oliver Wilks
The Mattancherry Palace popularly known as the Dutch Palace features Kerala murals depicting Hindu temples, art, portraits and exhibits of the Rajas of Kochi.
Pic Credit: Mark Hills
The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue located in Kochi. The name Paradesi which means "foreigners" was used as the synagogue by Jews, the Middle East and European exiles. It is located in Jew town which is in Old Cochin. It houses many relics like the Scrolls of the Law, several gold crowns, many Belgian glass chandeliers, brass-railed pulpit andd so on.
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The local cusine of Kochi is a mix of the Kerala, Dutch and Portuguese culture. Unlike in othe towns of Kerala one will find the taste of the food here unique. While generous helpings of coconuts and the local spices are used here, the method of cooking the food is completely European.
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Kochi has just about enough to attract the shopping enthusiast too. While the now commonplace shopping malls cater to your basic needs and beyond you can collect some interesting trinkets from the seaside shops. There are a few antique shops that have to offer Dutch and Portuguese wares.
Pic Credit: Arun Katiyar