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"If China is where you make your money, then Cochin is surely the place to spend it."
When Nicolas Conti, the legendary Italian traveler said this, Cochin was flourishing in trade as one of the most desirable destinations approachable by sea. And Fort Cochin, once an obscure fishing hamlet, found itself at the hub of all this bustling activity. It was soon to be the first European township in trade as one of the most glorious cities in its history.
Fort Cochin probably has the best preserved history of colonial times and the ideal way to bring it alive is to take a walk down its old colonial roads, with its tree-lined avenues and quaint little lands and beside the seashores – where magnificent Chinese fishing nets sketch a spectacular skyline. It is believed that Chinese travelers during the reign of Kubla Khan had introduced this art of Chinese fishing to Cochin.
In AD 1341, a cataclysmic flood threw open the estuary at Cochin. Thanks to the strange ways of nature, out of this land-locked area was born one of the finest natural harbors of the east. This in turn paving the way for a deluge of seafaring visitors, from the Arabs to the Chinese and later, from the Portuguese to the British. The features of the latter ones characterize the façade of Fort Cochin, to a great extent.
Walking through Fort Cochin will transport you back to the last years of the 15th century. When the adventurous Vasco da Gamma and valiant Cabral let their religions to this land lured by the fabulous riches of Malabar Coast and established flourishing trade relations. In 1553 with the permission of Maharaja of Cochin, Fort Immanuel , the first European Fort in India was constructed here. Within its vast confines, the Portuguese built houses, Churches and other buildings while generously contributing to the indigenous cultural fabric, the standard of which still endures.
While traveling down the streets of Fort Cochin, the Dutch influence is profound, they laid out most of the town in its present form. In doing this, they cut down the Fort to about a third of its original extent, when they wrested it from the Portuguese in AD 1663.
During the Dutch era, Fort Cochin climbed the heights of fame as a rich commercial center, major military base, an illustrious cultural hub, a noted ship building yard and an age old center of Christianity.
The last side of colonial regime seen at the Fort Cochin are those of British, who took over the town in 1795.After those glorious years it was then relegated to the role of an administrative outpost. Yet, the spices and tea trade kept it in the lime light. In many of the Bungalows here, you will notice the grandeur of European Villas; evidence of distinct strains of Indo/European Architecture that matured mostly in this period.
Detours into the past
After the enlightening walk through Fort Cochin, and if ones curiosity is still asking for more, walk on, for the Jewish settlements of Mattancherry is just 20 minutes away. The Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue, that are over 400 years old, are places where you can treat yourselves to be immersed in the glorious past of this land.