Solo Things to Do

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    'MAN 2' or 'Eks Pengadilan Tinggi Agama' building

    by theo1006 Written Apr 11, 2014
    Inside view of the dome
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    Browsing the internet in search of colonial buildings to visit in Solo, we encountered the Gedung Eks Pengadilan Tinggi Agama (Former Religious High Court Building). So it seems to be known, although originally it was not a religious court, nor is it nowadays.
    According to our source, the buildings were originally the residence of a rich merchant from Banjarmasin, but it mentions no year of construction. He probably lived in the central building, whereas business offices and servants were housed in the U-shaped block around it.
    And indeed from January 1st, 1938, the building was designated by the Dutch Givernor General for use by the Religious High Court, and it had this function until 1987, when the court was moved to Semarang.
    For some years the State Religious Teachers Training College (Pendidikan Guru Agama Negeri) was housed here, but since 1992 it is home to the “MAN 2” vocational boarding school. “MAN 2” is short for Madrasah Aliyah Negeri 2, implying that it is a state-run school on religious basis.
    When we politely asked the watchman for permission to see the building, we were straight-away ushered into the head-master's office, who was very pleased with our interest in his school. Indeed he takes pride in maintaining and preserving the buildings which have been designated a cultural heritage.
    The complex covers 4,439 m2. The two-storey buildings along three sides house offices, classrooms and boarding rooms. Whereas the landmark central building now functions as a mosque. It features original leaded glass windows and floor tiles. The dome is a captivating view from the inside.

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    The Mangkunegaran Palace

    by theo1006 Updated Apr 10, 2014
    Mangkunegaran reception hall
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    Why are there two palaces in Solo?

    As said on our intro page, by 1745 the VOC had obtained the overlordship of the Mataram kingdom, Susuhunan Pakubuwono II being their puppet. But his position was still attractive, as the VOC left the administration mainly to him. So at his demise in 1749 there were competitors for the succession.
    His younger brother, Prince Mangkubumi, vied for the throne, as well as a cousin, Raden Mas Said, son of his elder brother. Whereas the first in line of succession was his son, who became Susuhunan Pakubuwono III.
    So it was up to the VOC to mediate, which they did by dividing the kingdom. By an agreement of 1755 Prince Mangkubumi got to rule in Yogyakarta as Sultan Hamengkubuwono I. And in 1757 the cousin was allowed to set up court in the Mangkunegaran Palace as Adipati Arya Mangkunegoro I. His full title was: Kangjeng Gusti Pangeran Adipati Arya Mangkunegoro Senopati Ngayuda Lelana Djayamisesa Satriyatama Mataram Prawiradiningrat - how they loved these long titles!

    So the Mangkunegaran is that cousin's palace as it stands today. Although the kingdoms were effectively dissolved in 1950 by Indonesia's independence, the family still inhabits the palace. That is why a guided tour is compulsory for the museum in the palace. But one is free to roam the grounds and the pendopo or reception hall by oneself.
    The decoration of the pendopo ceiling is famous. The eight rectangles feature different colours which guard against threats to the soul, according to Javanese mysticism. On the border around these one can identify the signs of the zodiac.

    We planned our second visit on a Wednesday morning, when there are rehearsals of gamelan music and dance in the pendopo (see video Music and dance rehearsal at the Mangkunegaran). And we were curious enough to walk through the west gate, dated 1874 and entitled 'Kavallerie Artillerie'. Behind it may have been the quarters of the palace guard, nowadays palace servants live there.

    Visiting hours: Mon-Sat 8:30 - 16, Sun 8:30 - 13. On Wednesday and Saturdays from 10 to 12 rehearsals of music and dance take place in the pendopo.

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    A former European School

    by theo1006 Written Apr 10, 2014
    Former European School, building #1
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    On the south side of Mayor Sunaryo street, facing Vastenburg fort we saw three evidently colonial buildings being restored. The restoration was none too early, some walls already having collapsed.
    Billboards showed that lately the buildings had been in use as government offices, but what was their original function? We asked a supervisor and an employee on the site, they did not know. We asked at the tourist information desk at next corner, the young man did not know.
    But mr Kale, the warden of Vastenburg, had an answer. According to him the buildings housed a school for European children; seeing the layout we can well believe him.
    What will they use the buildings for once they have been restored... ?

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    Balai Kota (Town Hall)

    by theo1006 Updated Apr 10, 2014
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    The pendopo or reception hall of the town hall is considered a landmark, yet it is not old. The original pendopo was destroyed by fire in 1998. So what one sees now is a reconstruction.
    We were free to walk the grounds, but the interior of the pendopo was off limits.
    A friendly employee guided us to a recent discovery at the rear of the grounds: a bunker thought to be meant as a refuge for the Dutch resident (government supervisor) in case his residence might be attacked. The bunker was discovered through excavations for a new building, which now will not be constructed there.

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    The Bank Indonesia building

    by theo1006 Written Apr 10, 2014
    The old Bank Indonesia building (1)
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    The 'Bank Indonesia' inherited many fine colonial office buildings from the 'Javasche Bank', the main bank in colonial times. And they have the money to preserve them well.
    The former Javasche Bank office in Solo was designed by architects Hulswit, Fermont and Cuipers in neo-classical style. It played a role in the history of the young republic, when a group of leftwing youth held the kidnapped prime minister Sutan Shayrir and others here in 1946.
    Nowadays a new, modern style bank office has been built across the road and connected with the old building by a walkway. When we visited the old office was fenced in, restoration work being in progress. But the few workers present did not mind us opening the gate and having a peak around.
    The old office is being prepared to function as a numismatic museum. So hopefully you can visit this within a year or so.

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    Tien Kok Sie Chinese temple

    by theo1006 Written Apr 10, 2014
    Tien Kok Sie temple, facade
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    When susuhunan Pakubuwono II moved his residence from Kartasura to Solo village, the Chinese living in Kartasura moved there with him. The susuhunan reserved some land across Papa river (a tributory to Bengawan Solo) for the Chinese quarter, not far from his palace.
    So now you can find the Chinese quarter when you walk north from the kraton and turn right across the bridge. Then you walk into Pasar Gedhe (market), and to the right across the road from its entrance is the Chinese temple 'Kelenteng Tien Kok Sie'. It was built at the same time as the kraton and therefore listed as cultural heritage and well preserved.
    It is a typical Tri Dharma temple, serving a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. As customary with Chinese temples it is always open to devotees and casual visitors alike.

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    Loji Gandrung, the mayor's residence

    by theo1006 Written Apr 9, 2014
    Loji Gandrung front yard
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    When we walked into the yard of this colonial house, we were cordially received by the watchman, who even shot a pic of us posing in front of the reception hall.

    The house seems to be one of few of which the original owner is known. If we may believe the website http://sejarahsosial.org/kamp_solo/htm/06.htm he was a Dutch plantation owner by name of Johannes Augustinus Dezentje (1797 - 1839), who married a Javanese princess, Raden Ayu Tjokrokoesoemo.

    Nowadays Loji Gandrung is the official residence of Solo's mayor. So one is not allowed to roam the interior, but one can have a peek into the reception hall. It is this hall that gave the house its polupar name, Loji Gandrung or Party House, Loji meaning 'big house' and Gandrung meaning 'partying' or 'dancing'. Evidently that is the lasting impression the Javanese - who were not invited - got of the activities of the Europeans in this house. Yet it is stated that the Surakarta ruler Sunan Pakubuwono often was invited. He was a good friend of the Dutch and moved as easily in Javanese as in European circles.

    The statue in front of the house represents General Gatot Subroto, who planned his assaults on the Dutch forces here during the war of independence of 1948-49. There is also a room in the house that president Soekarno used when visiting Solo. And, sadly, in the aftermath of Suharto's coup in 1965, left-wingers including the then mayor of Solo, Oetomo Ramelan, were interrogated here by the army.

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    Old Dutch fort "Vastenburg"

    by theo1006 Updated Apr 8, 2014
    Main gate of fort Vastenburg
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    The old Dutch fort was one of the main things we wanted to see on our March 2014 trip to Solo. When we arrived at the west gate a group of youngsters were having a photo session there, but the gate was closed. We walked around the walls clockwise and found the back gate equally closed. But around the next corner, on Jalan Mayor Sunaryo, we met mr. Karolus Kale who has been the unpaid warden for thirty years. When he understood that we were Dutch and spoke Indonesian, he opened up and gave us a tour of the grounds.

    When the VOC had subjugated the susuhunan (ruler) of Kartasura and the latter built his new Kraton in Solo village (see the intro of our Solo page), the VOC built a small fort - named Grootmoedigheid - near the palace, ostentiously to protect the susuhunan, but mainly to be able to keep him in check. Several decades later work was begun on a much bigger fort which became known as Vastenburg. Eventually within the walls there was accommodation for the commander, five officers, nine lieutenants, three captains and all the infantry and cavalry they commanded, including stables for the horses, a hospital, a prison and several stores. These are all drawn on a plan dated 1832 of which mr Kale has a copy, and visible in the aerial photograph from 1930 (from the archives of the Dutch East Indies Army, KNIL).

    Alas, all these buildings within the walls have not been preserved. The last officers' houses which were still present in 2001 were demolished by the private owner of the estate in preparation of his plans to build a shopping mall. This caused an outrage from history scholars and students, mr Kale also taking an active part in the demonstrations. Subsequently the then mayor of Surakarta (Jokowi, now governor of Jakarta Special Region) scrapped the shopping mall plans - because of the popular opposition or of his own volition, who knows?

    The present status of the fort is in limbo. Since the government designated the fort as cultural heritage the private owner is not allowed to change anything. On the other hand the government can't afford to buy the fort from the owner. When we visited restoration work was in progress on the main gate building, i.e. the only building of interest remaining apart from the ramparts. A plaque on eye height commemorates the level water reached during a flooding on February 24, 1861.

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    Veterans' House alias Bat House

    by theo1006 Updated Mar 28, 2014
    Bats over the roof of Bat House
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    The official name of the mansion is Gedung Veteran, because for some time it functioned as an office of the Veterans of the Independence Struggle. However, the neighbourhood knows it as Gedung Lowo, as nowadays it is inhabited by hundreds - no: thousands - of bats. Lowo is the Javanese word for bat.
    According to the information we could discover on the internet, in colonial times the house was the residence of some high Dutch official. His 1500 m2 dwelling had four spacious bedrooms, and between these equally spacious living and receiving rooms.
    In 1945 the house was bought by a rich Chinese by name of Sie Djian Ho, whose business was in publishing and plantations and who also owned an ice factory across the street from the house.
    It seems he did not enjoy living there long. In the ensuing years guerrilla fighters against the Dutch used it as a hiding place. And after the Indonesian independence the government acquired it and made it an office of the Veterans' organization.
    Between 1983 and 1985 the house was thoroughly renovated while preserving its Dutch architecture. In the 1990-ies it served temporarily as an office for the Muslim pilgrimage (kantor haji) and for the Chambre of Commerce. But then it seems they ran out of ideas how to utilize the house, it has stood empty for years and is in need of another thorough renovation.
    Meanwhile the bats have taken over. We were lucky to seek out Omah Lowo in the afternoon, and had to wait just half an hour in a cafetaria across the street for the bats coming out. Bystanders had said: “Wait for magrib”. It was as if the call to evening prayer was the clue the bats had been waiting for! See them in the video Bat House on Slamet Riyadi street. What the video does not convey is the smell; the house stinks!

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    Kraton Mangkunagaran - 3

    by AngMimi Written Jun 26, 2013

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    Pendolo Ageng
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    Pendopo Ageng
    Inside the palace is a huge Pendopo Ageng (pavilion), where they held tradisional dance performances here. You can see many big and beautiful candelairs hanging from the ceilings, and most interesting, you can see all the 12 Signs of the Zodiac - Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn on the ceiling in Pic4. All the candelairs, statues of Golden Lions and I dont know what name for Pic5. Seems to bought in or gifts from Netherlands.

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    Kraton Mangkunagaran - 2

    by AngMimi Updated Jun 26, 2013

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    All the Mangkanagara
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    Kraton Mangkunagaran was built in 1757 after a bitter struggle against the founder of Surakarta, Pakubuwono II, by his nephew Raden Mas Said, who was later crowned Pangeran mangkunagaran I. The present Sultan Mangkunagara IX in Picture 2.

    There seem to be two kraton in Solo, but this smaller kraton have more interesting things to see like the beautiful Pendolo Ageng, Peringgitan and Dalem Ageng.

    Do you know, the Royal Family is still living at the back of the palace, and that is why we needed a guide to take us around the palace, and incase we meet the Royal family esp the prince, who is still a bachelor. :-)))

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    Kraton Mangkunegaran - 1

    by AngMimi Written Jun 26, 2013

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    If you are in Solo, it is a must to visit the Mangkunegaran Palace that situated in the center of modern city of Solo.

    Entrance fee - IDR 18,000 per person
    Open daily : 0830 - 1400hr
    Sunday 0830 - 1300hr.

    There are do and don't in the palace, please see Picture 4.
    Picture 1 - the entrance to the palace

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    Meet Prehistoric Java Man

    by theo1006 Updated Dec 19, 2012
    Collection of hominid skull replicas
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    The Solo river valley, north-east of Solo, is an important source of prehistoric fossils. Half of the world's findings of Pithecantropus Erectus or Homo Erectus skulls were made here, along with countless animal bones and flake tools.

    In 1996 the "Sangiran Early Man Site" was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as number 593. This encouraged the Indonesian government to develop the site for tourism and education of the public on evolution. A master plan has been proposed for constructing four visitors' centers. In 2012 we found the first of these completed and open to the public - indeed several school groups arrived. For the humble beginnings of the museum, see our travelogue.

    The displays at this new "Krikilan visitors' centre" aim to educate the general public on evolution generally, but also provide many specific details on the fossil discoveries in the Sangiran area and the conditions that led to so many fossils being preserved here. This compound also houses the offices and the work rooms of the conservators and the storage facilities - almost daily more fossils are found by villagers and brought in here.

    The Sangiran site covers some 50 km2. One can tour the neighbourhood to the actual sites where hominid fossils have been found. On three of these more visitors' centers will be built. The "Dayu cluster" is now under construction and will feature excavation boxes where 1,2 million years old flake tools have been found. The "Ngebung cluster" will elaborate the discovery in 1934 by Koenigswald of flake tools which soon after led to the discovery of homo erectus fossil remains. The "Bukuran cluster" will focus on early man fossils found in Sangiran and on human evolution. At 2 km from the centre a tower has been built for viewing the area.

    Hours: 8am to 4pm (Mondays closed).
    Admission: Rp 5,000 (Rp 3,500 for the grounds, Rp 1,500 for the museum, 2012).

    Another, smaller museum is located at Trinil, 80 km from Solo. It boasts copies of the humanoid skulls found there, the originals are in the Netherlands. It also has educational displays for local visitors. Take a bus to Ngawi-Madiun, drop off 11 km before Ngawi at the turnoff to the north for Trinil. From the turnoff it is 3 km.

    A more recent and interesting fossil discovery site is located in Kudus regency. See Patiayam tip.

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    Visiting the erotic temples

    by IreneMcKay Updated Jun 23, 2012

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    Candi Sukuh
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    We booked a car and driver through our hotel for this trip. This was considerably cheaper than the price we had been quoted by a travel agency earlier. The erotic temples are Candi Ceto and Candi Sukuh. They are fairly near each other and with transport can easily be visited on the same day. There is a waterfall nearby, too, though we did not go to see it.

    Candi Sukuh is open from 9am to 5pm and costs around 10,000 Rp to visit. The main temple building is like a pyramid with the point cut off. You can climb up to the flat roof for a view over the complex and surrounding area.

    The temple is called an erotic temple due to housing several statues with rather large penises. They are more funny than erotic. The highlight of the temple is the stunning view over the surrounding countryside. There are tea plantations, rice paddies, coffee plantations all in contrasting shades of green. It is stunning.

    Candi Ceto also has stunning views. It is open from 9am-5pm and costs around 10,000Rp to enter. This temple is set out over several different terraces and also contains erotic statues.

    Both temples were the highlight of our trip to Solo.

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    Puri Mangkunegaran

    by IreneMcKay Updated Jun 23, 2012

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    My husband in front of the palace
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    Solo has two palaces. Puri Mangkunegaran is the smaller one, but it is supposedly better kept. You have to go round on a tour which I don't normally like doing, but our guide was really interesting and funny and told us lots about the objects in the palace which we would never have known without him.

    The royal family still live in part of this palace and I'm pretty sure we saw a princess or two wandering around. It's possible to book dinner with the royal family apparently though we did not try this.

    Buy your entrance ticket at main palace entrance and take the tour. It is open Monday - Saturday 8.30am - 2pm and Sunday 8.30am -1pm.

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