With high-rise development restricted to Ernakulam, across the water, the old fashioned character of Mattancherry and near by Fort Cochin remains intact. Within an area small enough to cover on foot,bycle or auto-rickshaw, glimpses of Kochi's variegated history greet you at virtually every turn. As you approach by ferry (get off at Mattancherry), the shoreline is crowded with tiled buildings painted in pastel colors , a view that can't have changed for centuries.

Despite the large number of tourists visiting daily, trade is still the most important activity here. Many of the streets are busy with barrows loaded with sacks of produce trundling between godowns (warehouses) and little shops where dealers to business in tea, jute, rubber, chillies, turmmeric,cashew,ginger,cardamom and pepper.

     Jew Town         

The road heading left from Mattacherry Jetty leads into the district known as Jew Town, where N.X.Jacob"s tailor shop and the offices of J.E.Cohen, advocate and tax consultant,serve as reminders of a once-thriving community. Nowadays many of the shops sell antiques, Hindu and Christian woodcarvings, oil lamps,wooden jwellery boxes and other bric-a-brac.

Turning right at the India Pepper & Spice Trade Building, usually resounding with the racket of dealers shouting the latest spice prices, and then right again, brings you into synagogue Lane. The pardesi (White Jew) Synagogue (daily except Sat 10am-noon & 3-5pm) was founded in 1568,and rebuilt in 1664. Its interior is an attractive, if incongruous, hotchpotch; note the floor, paved with hand-painted eighteenth- century blue-and-white tiles from Canton, each unique, depicting a love affair between a mandarin's daughter and a commoner. The nineteenth-century glass oil-burning chandeliers suspended form the ceiling were imported
from Belgium. Above the entrance, a gallery supported by slender gilt columns was reserved for female members of the congregation. Opposite the entrance, an elaborately carved Ark houses four scrolls of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) encased in silver and gold, on which are placed gold crowns presented by the maharajas of Travancore and Cochin, testifying to good relations with the Jewish Community. The synagogue's oldest artifact is a fourth-century copper plate inscription fro the Raja of Cochin.

An attendant is usually available to show visitor's around, and answer questions; his introductory talk features as part of the KTDC guided tour. Outside, in a small square, several antique shops are well worth a browse, but don't expect a bargain.

     Mattancherry Palace  

Mattancherry [palace (daily except friday 10am-5pm) stands on the left side of the road a short walk from the Mattancherry Jetty in the opposite direction to Jew Town. The gate way on the road is, infact,its back entrance and it remains inexplicably locked. I the walled grounds behind the gate stands a circular, tiled Krishna Temple closed to non-Hindus).

Although known locally as the Dutch Palace, the two-storey palace was built by the Portuguese as a gift to the Cochin raja,Vira Keralavarma(1537-61), and the Dutch were responsible for subsequent additions. While its appearance is not particularly striking, squat with whitewashed walls and tiled roof, the interior is captivating. The murals that adorn some of its rooms are among the finest examples of Kerala's much underrated school of painting; friezes illustrating stories from the Ramayana. On the first floor, date from the sixteenth century. Packed with detail and gloriously rich colour, the style is never strictly naturalistic; the treatment of facial features is pared down to the simplest of lines for the mouths, and characteristically aquiline noses. Downstairs, the women's bed chamber holds several less complex paintings, possibly dating from the 1700s. One shows Shiva dallying with Vishnu, who has assumed a female form as the enchantress Mohini, a second portrays Krishna holding aloft Mount Govardhana,another features a reclining Krishna surrounded by gopis, or cow girls. His languid pose belies the activity of his six hands and two feet, intimately caressing adoring admirers.