In this ancient kingdom of Kasunanan Surakarta in Central Java, time stands still.
Down the narrow streets between buildings with old Javanese and European architectural combinations, I imagined how magnificent the heyday of this kingdom was. In order to see the scenery up close, I went on foot.
Visitors can also rent andong (a horse-drawn carriage) or becak (pedicab), as more typical modes of transportation in Surakarta.
After meandering, I visited the royal palace museum to learn more about the history of Kasunanan Surakarta.
The museum preserves historical objects from the early era of the Mataram Kingdom to the Indonesian independence war era.
There are also some historical items such as photos of the king from the beginning of the existence of Kasunanan Surakarta Kingdom as well as the royal throne, the royal carriage, some antique weapons, royal ceremonial equipment and variety of other heritage objects.
Visiting Surakarta palace does not just merely recall the past, because its cultural dynamics and the arts can still be enjoyed up until today.
Tourists can interact with the courtiers and listen to their stories about their loyalty and devotion to the king.
Each Sunday morning, the royal soldiers still march downtown to the accompaniment of drums, flutes and trumpets. While on certain days, they still hold regular exercises to play gamelan ensembles and sing traditional songs called macapat.
Rituals and ceremonies are also held on a regular basis and are adjusted to Islamic religious celebrations.
Kasunanan Surakarta also holds a regular event that presents royal art performances called "Keraton Art Festival".
This event is held in Sitihinggil, a place usually used to receive royal guests. The event shows off a variety of traditional dances of Kasuanan Surakarta culture, such as the bedaya dance and the mask dance.
The Independent Kasunanan Surakarta declared it would join with the Republic of Indonesia on August 18, 1945. At that moment, Indonesia had just proclaimed its independence.
Ever since the integration, the kingdom has been known as Surakarta city or Solo.
However, though it has been incorporated into Indonesia, the Kasunanan Surakarta still has its own king, named Sri Susuhunan Pakubuwono XIII. The king of Kasunanan Surakarta is no longer the ruler of the territory, but is a cultural symbol that perpetuates the cultural heritage of Kasunanan Surakarta palace.
Where else to go
Kasunanan Surakarta palace is located in downtown Surakarta city, adjacent to other tourist spots such as the Great Mosque of Surakarta, Klewer traditional flea market, Pasar Gede traditional market, the ruin of Fort Vastenburg, Kampong Batik Kauman and a traditional culinary center named GALABO.
It would be interesting to visit Kasuanan Surakarta palace during a traditional ceremony. For further information about the complete schedule of the events, please contact the travel agency in the city of Surakarta.