Fort Kochi is a melting pot of cultures. Portuguese, Dutch Jewish and English influences have helped mould the city. It is also a major port and home to Vembanad Lake, the largest in Kerala. Visitors can shop for spices, jewellery, handicrafts, textiles and antiques. The place has incredible art cafes too.
The Jewish Synagogue in Fort Kochi is the oldest existing synagogue of all the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is known by various other names such asCochin Jewish Synagogue and the Mattancherry Synagogue. When the Jews settled in Mattancherry after their expulsion from Iberia, they built this imposing structure in 1568. The structure on Jew street is remarkable and the highly decorative interiors have huge Belgian Chandeliers and hand painted floor tiles. They added the synagogue’s three-story clock tower two centuries later. Ezekial Rahabi, a leading businessman, directed the construction in 1761.
The clock tower has three existing dials of blue-painted teak. To the north, facing the Maharajah’s Palace, the dial has Malayalam characters. To the south, viewed from Jew Town, they are in Roman numerals. And to the west, from the synagogue side, the dial has Hebrew letters.
Basilica of Santa Cruz in Fort Kochi
Santa Cruz Basilica is a big building with a Gothic facade and soaring twin spires. Inside it is vibrant and colourful. The Portuguese first built built the church in 1505. Italian painter Bro. Antonio Moscheni decorated the main altar. Frescoes and murals cover the columns. There are pretty windows of stained glass and arches. Beautiful paintings on the ceiling depict the life of Jesus Christ. Antonio Moscheni stayed in Kochi from 1903 till he passed away in 1905.
The artwork include murals and frescoes of angels and saints. The painting showing The Last Supper was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci‘s awe-inspiring fresco in Milan. The cathedral’s ceiling depicts scenes of Christ on the day of his crucifixion.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Portuguese brought Chinese fishing nets from Macau, once a Portuguese colony. Teams of 6 to 8 people operate the huge nets. They use the nets when the tide is coming in. At low tide, the nets are idle. Sometimes they lower the nets into the water at night with lights fixed on the top. But the activities stop at around 10 pm. Fort Koch is the only place in India where you can see Chinese fishing nets.
Oldest European Church in India
Saint Francis Church, a landmark of Fort Kochi, is one of the oldest European churches in India. The church dates back to the sixteenth century. The body of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, had been buried in the church in 1524. His son, Padre da Silva de Gama, took the mortal remains to Lisbon in 1538. You can see the gravestone of Vasco da Gama in the church.
The cannon in Fort Kochi looks out to sea. It was meant to keep a check on incoming ships.
Pepper Exchange in Fort Kochi
International Pepper Exchange is on Jew Street in Mattancherry. Its close proximity to Kochi harbour made Mattancherry a hub for international spice trade. The Pepper Exchange is a tourist attraction, particularly for foreign visitors. This is the only pepper exchange in the world.
Ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi
You can reach Fort Kochi in 20 minutes by ferry from Ernakulam main boat jetty. It is the low-cost and beautiful mode of travel. The route is scenic, passing Willingdon Island and Kochi Harbour along the way. The International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), part of the Cochin Port, is the largest container transshipment facility in India. Ernakulam to Fort Kochi by road is 16 km and takes about 32 minutes without traffic.
Vasco da Gama, Portuguese navigator, landed in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. Admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral visited Kochi in 1500. The Raja of Kochi gave him permission to carry on trading activities and signed a friendship treaty with Portugal. In 1503 the Raja allowed Alphonso de Albuquerque to build a fort at the mouth of Periyar river. The Portuguese named it Fort Manuel.
How to Reach Fort Kochi
Kochi has good air connectivity. Kochi International Airport has direct fights to cities in India and elsewhere. The airport is 45 km from Fort Kochi.
By rail, Kochi is well connected to all parts of India. There are two main railway stations in Kochi: Ernakulam South and Ernakulam North.
The city is part of an extensive network of state and national highways. National Highway 66 runs along the western coast of India and links Kanyakumari and Panvel.
Kochi has a modern cruise terminal. Domestic and international cruise ships dock there.
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