One of the finest natural harbours on the Arabian sea coast, Kochi likes to
show itself off in the evenings. That is when the lights around the harbour and
the seafront start twinkling and transport you to an almost fairytale-like
atmosphere. The fairytale milieu suits Kochi admirably since it is one the most
laid-back of Kerala’s cities. This, despite the fact that it is the state’s
commercial hub handling spices, rubber, coir and fish products for the world.
For the uninitiated, Kochi comprises of mainland
Ernakulam, the islands of Willingdon, Bolgatty and Gundu in the harbour, Fort Cochin and Matancherry in
the south and Vypeen Island in the north. It is these islands and the smell of
sea air that lends Kochi its unique charm. While it has the busy harbour on one
end, on the other is M G Road, where modern designer boutiques and expensive
gold shops exist almost cheek-by-jowl with places selling spices, dry fish and
Kochi’s claim to posterity and fame is its distinctive title as the Queen
of the Arabian Sea. As an ancient port of call for the Chinese, the Arabs, the
Jews, the British, the French and the Portuguese, the city absorbed the cultures
of each nationality and gave Kochi its cosmopolitan character. This is reflected
in the buildings and structures all around the older sections. Naturally, there
is history at every step in the city.
So, there is the 2,000-year-old Jew Town built in 1568 with one the oldest
functioning synagogues in the world, the Mattancherry Palace built by the
Portuguese in 1557, the Pallipuram Fort on Gundu Island and the Chinese fishing
St. Francis Church
Built in 1503 by
Portuguese Franciscan Friars, this is India’s oldest European church. The
original structure made of wood, was rebuilt in stone in the mid-16th century by
the Protestant Dutch. The church was converted to an Anglican Church by the
British in 1795, and is presently used by the Church of South India. Vasco da
Gama’s remains were buried here in 1524 and later moved to Lisbon, Portugal.
His tombstone is a major tourist attraction.
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