It started years ago with a tiny bowl of finely chopped greens, lime juice, shredded coconut and a wild array of spices. Forming a perfect synthesis with the creamy beetroot curry in front of me this humble pile of spicy greens won me over right away. My very first sambol – a traditional Sri Lankan condiment – was served to me in the middle of a grey Berlin winter and came with the warmest smile I’d seen in days. The friendly waiter visibly enjoyed my excitement and we started to chat about food and what it means to a Sri Lankan – how the family gathers to enjoy all the little lovingly prepared dishes together and how every curry always tastes slightly different. Every family has their own recipe. Like many of my decisions the wish to travel to Sri Lanka one day came viscerally and was committed to paper (my secret bucket list) directly after visiting
Let me start with those responsible for the kind smiles and the not-so-kind usage of chilli – the people of Sri Lanka. The history of their island is long and eventful,
Despite all those scars the people I met here caught me with their positive attitude, painting their houses in the brightest colours and warmly welcoming you into their diverse culture. When you stay with locals, Sri Lankan hospitality consists of a lot of homemade food, huge amounts of fresh produce from people’s gardens and many nice little chats. Oh and tea! We learnt that important lesson when we got slightly lost in the middle of
A life in sync with nature
Chatting with Krishan and watching him cook also harkened back to what had already impressed me before – many locals’ immense knowledge about the nature around them. Encircled by the forceful beauty of the ocean, they depend on nature’s mercy, but also get to experience its splendour on a daily basis – a bond for a lifetime. The majority of the day is spent outside and most people from rural areas have a garden that they lavish care on. Feeling sick in the stomach? Your skin is not amused by all that sun? Most likely there is some plant with superpowers just around the corner and some friendly Sri Lankan is happy to share his or her knowledge and leaves. Just ask.
The island’s flora and fauna truly is special and hopefully awareness of this will defy the dangers of fast tourism and harsh agriculture. During recent years Sri Lanka has become a destination that appeals to more and more people – there is a lot of construction going on and new hotels are popping up on a regular basis. The sudden boom supplies many people with work, but can also severely endanger human and environmental health. This is why people like Krishan impress me; he makes a living out of tourism, but still sticks to his roots.
Another place I really loved for the same reason was
Even though the safari stuff seemed weird to me at first I ended up being really happy about visiting
The land’s fruitfulness
Talking of nature: Sri Lanka’s fertility is immense, with ideal growing conditions for almost everything. If you are like me, you’ll quickly turn into a fruit market shopping queen, buy as much as you can carry (or more) and won’t be seen without a coconut in your hand for three weeks in a row. Sri Lanka spoiled us with the most tasty papayas, pineapples, guavas, melons, passion fruits and much more. There are many fruits, veggies and herbs that you might not know from home but that are totally worth trying. Just give it a shot. If you are not sure how to prep a certain product just ask. The answer might be hard to understand, but at least you tried and you can still just go for it. One of our hosts cooked us a final dinner on our last night with all the vegetables we failed on before, which was quite funny. And delicious. If only there were more banana blossoms for me to practise my banana blossom curry skills on…
If you are interested in growing (and eating) things you might also be interested in visiting a tea or spice farm. Sri Lankans are very proud of their produce, especially of their tea. I did a tour at the
Going with the flow
This is a good one too! It’s easy to not plan ahead too much and just go with the flow when you’re traveling in Sri Lanka. And that is great. Apart from the big hotels and resorts there are many small guest houses and local people renting out rooms via
Salt on your skin and sand in your hair
All of the above. Straight. For two weeks in a row. Because the beaches are just beautiful and the water is wild and warm and makes you want to stay forever. Definitely a reason to love Sri Lanka! The more famous ones can be found in the south and west of the island – they might be more crowded but you will still easily find a nice, private spot to rest in the warm sand, happily gazing at palm trees. The beaches of
The food. Oh the food!
I once read: I can only recommend going to Sri Lanka – unless you are allergic to coconut. I second that. Since I’m all about coconut I’m allowed to go. And in heaven. If you thought it was just like Indian food you are underestimating the amount of dishes and little condiments the traditional cuisine has to offer – it seems like there is a different food for almost every hour or mood. Shaped by the land’s richness and influenced by many different cultures (and coconut palm trees) an eclectic mix of spices, methods and produce is taking place here. My ultimate tip: try out as much as you can! I’m still not done testing and might have to come back. What a shame. The classic would be a rice and curry – which means a variety of (vegetarian) little curries, a huge pile of rice, a mix of sambols and pickles and some crunchy
Dinner is mostly cooked at home, so if you are in less touristy areas opt for lunch for the bigger variety of dishes. Also don’t miss out on all the street food, there is a huge variety of doughy or roasted stuff happening. I really dug the roasted jackfruit curry. Try those if you get a hold of them, they taste like the love child of a sweet potato and a brazil nut. Be aware that even some tame-looking, puffy cuties might be really really spicy. But don’t be afraid…
If you’ve been following me around, you might know
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