Solo or Surakarta is a city mostly associated with Javanese culture, being one of the centers of power in Java. Along time, this city has built a reputation as the centerpiece of Javanese culture. In Indonesia, Solonese have reputation as calm, polite, charming, and soft-spoken.
Solo is one of the bastions of Javanese artistic traditions. From the sacred dances, the hand-crafted batik, or wayang; this city not only preserve the traditions, but they also live it. Solo is not a big city or the administrative center of the province, but that somehow enable this city to strengthen their identity even more. Here are some of the places you have to visit in this city.
One of the best cultural products of this area is its Batik. Batik is Indonesia’s national fabric with intricate pattern, mostly found in Java Island. It is an ancient tradition and in the past, wearing certain pattern of batik can show the social status of the wearer.
Solo is the city with probably the richest batik heritage. Lots of batik museum scattered around this city. There are also two batik kampongs; Kauman and Laweyan that often organize batik festivals. This city is the perfect place to learn about this beautiful fabric.
Surakarta used to be the heir of Mataram Sultanate after it split in 1755. Kasunanan Kingdom was based in Solo and Yogyakarta Sultanate based in Yogyakarta. The remnants of its glorious past is still visible today. You can visit Keraton Kasunanan which is the palace of Pakubuwono Kings built in 1675.
This palace is special as it combines classical European and traditional Javanese architecture. Puro Mangkunegaran is the palace of the Mangkunegara Princes that was built in 1757. Both palaces has museums and art and cultural centers with entrance fee of IDR15000.
Solo is popular as the textile city. It’s a paradise for those who seek to buy batik of any quality. Cheap batik can be found in Pasar Klewer, the biggest textile market in Indonesia. If you want to buy high quality batik tulis (handmade and drawn batik), you can go to Danar Hadi, Keris, or Semar Batik galleries.
Traditional and unique craft arts are abundant, from small scale to export volume. Antique market in Windujenar offers great items if you have keen eyes. Beware of the counterfeit items, though.
Meet the Ancient Man in Sangiran
Sangiran is an archaeological site, about 15 km from Surakarta. This UNESCO World Heritage site provide lots of treasure in the form of fossils and remnants from prehistoric era. This site rose to fame after the discovery of Homo Erectus remains with stone artifacts in 1930’s.
Those fossils are from 1,5 million years ago. Sangiran is a key site to understand human evolution with discoveries keep being made to this day. A museum is built on this site for educational and tourism purposes.
How to Get to Solo and What to do There
Surakarta is extremely well connected city. It can be accessed by car from virtually any part of Java Island. Solobalapan station is served by trains from most big cities in Java. Adisumarmo airport is connected with many domestic flights, as well as several flight from neighboring countries.
Getting around Solo is easy enough as the city is not too big. You can charter a becak or rent a motorcycle or a car. Walking is possible, but be aware that this city can be very hot during midday and the traffic congestion can be quite bad at certain hours.