Solo, or Surakarta as it is formerly known, is located about 60 kilometres to the east of Yogyakarta in Central Java and is one of the principal batik centres in Java. Bordered by the longest river in Java, Begawan Solo, Solo has much to offer the traveller although oddly enough, it is less visited that its sister counterpart of Yogyakarta. The city is home to many traditional and heritage sites as well as many cultural and historic places. There are interesting museums, palaces and centres of art and culture. There are numerous shops that offer a variety of products and specialty items as well as excellent restaurants and cafes. It is a fun city to explore by becak or on foot and if you don’t have a clue where you are going then there are no shortage of local guides willing to tag along for a fee of course to enlighten you with the delights of the city.
However, if having a local guide is not your thing and you have ditched the guidebook, then here are a few places you have to see on your trip to this fascinating city.
Kasunana Palace, or Kraton Solo is an enormous landmark in the city. The palace is massive and was built in 1745. Interesting things to see when you visit this magnificent place are the royal heirlooms and ancient weapons, the numerous statues, and precious artefacts. “The Tower Of The Universe” is reputed to be the meeting place of The Goddess of the Sea. Although slightly smaller than the Kraton in Yogyakarta it still warrants a good morning of exploring and admiring the beauty of the structures.
Located in the heart of Solo, Puro Mangkunegaran was constructed in 1757 and is referred to as the other palace in Solo. The Mangkunegaran Palace is a potpourri of classical Javanese art and culture with numerous priceless treasures which are believed to be from the Majapahit and Mataram kingdoms. The palace also features an exquisite collection of wayang puppets, dance masks, wayang orang costumes, religious icons and jewellery pieces. There are also numerous antiques and heirlooms.
Known as the most famous and the biggest textile market in the region, it is a three storey concrete block that is jam packed with everything imaginable that can be made from textiles. Most of the batik available is printed batik (batik cap) but you can also find the hand-drawn (batik tulis) batik, however, you will have to look hard for it. You can even find tailors working in this market and they will make you anything you want, for a price of course.
The flea market of all flea markets and a great place to rummage around albeit a bit dusty, and, anything but everything is available for sale here. For instance, antique batik, furniture, wayang puppets, keris, and the list goes on. However, you really have to know your stuff when shopping here for antiquated goods because a lot of the so-called antiques were produced only a few weeks earlier if you get my meaning. It is still a fabulous market to explore and wile away an hour or two.
Located in what is known as the Chinese quarter of Solo, Pasar Gede is a vast market selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, household items and the ilk. This is a lively market and well patronised by not only the locals but also those from out of town who come here daily for shopping. Another great market to wander around but do yourself a favour and get there early in the morning because as the day’s heat increases, so does the interior of the market.
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