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EINDHOVEN - What intrigues me about the 'old Indonesia' is the Dutch part. Maybe because I'm Dutch myself, but mainly because there is fairly little I know about it actually. If I think about how little information I got in school over the years I actually was in school. I wrote about this earlier, and about the facts that the Dutch maybe aren't proud of what they did in the Far East. But now the other side, there is no denying that the Dutch actually have been in Indonesia if it only were for that they left behind in buildings only.

Already quite some time ago, July 2001, I visited the old part of Jakarta, named Kota ( meaning 'city'), the old city where the Dutch settles several hundreds of years ago, and were forced out after the Japanese occupation of 1945-1949, and the declaration of independence. What would there left to be seen? I always heard and experienced that the Indonesian people didn't have any hate against their former colonizator, mainly because 'it used to be like that back then'. Maybe it's the smartest way to say this, mainly because there are a lot of other problems Indonesia has to tackle now.

We drove from downtown Jakarta around Monas towards the north, the roads getting smaller and smaller, but not dirty or something. Indonesia has a total whiping population which probably outnumbers the people who followed higher education, but well, clean it is for sure.
All of a sudden, there is the old Dutch city, I recognised it because of the building styles, and also because the buildings were smaller than I used to see just south of here. Most houses still were in original state, though a cafe or restaurant was settled in it now. We were at 'Stadthuysplein', or Taman Fatahillah as it is called nowadays, named after the Sultan who conquered the Portuguese in 1527. In front of the old 'Stadthuys', now the Jakarta Museum of History, there is an old Portuguese cannon, Si Jagur, which is believed to have fertile power if you sit on it for a while.
View over th square in front of the museum from a window on the first floor Most pictures of the square seem fairly green with all the trees, but the thing I know is that it was hard to find a tree on the square, and there were a few threes around the square, near the teracces of the cafes across the street. It were the buildings that casted most shade, they even had Cafe Batavia right across Fatahillah.

We entered the big steps to the even bigger door of the nowadays history museum. Inside it? I didn't know, one history museum I visited two years before ( Museum Sejarah Nasional ), just around the corner had various pieces of art for display. Among them large stone statues from east Jawa, the biggest part. Parts of Borobudur and Prambanan-like temples and Sanscrite writings on a big stone table.
This should be different, the entrance only was a couple of hundred Rupiah, how could they ever take care of this with so little money? Well, the last big revamp was in the mid seventies, at a time that I wasn't even born yet, it goes beyond my imagination actually, since the place still looks tidy enough for a Historical Museum.

The rooms of the Dutch mayor, the sleeping rooms, the dining rooms, waiting rooms, and of course rooms where people met to discuss about various important issues back then. What has been decided from here in all those years this building was used actively as a city house. A strange feeling that almost entire Jawa, maybe Indonesia has been governed from this very place.
My imagination runs loose since all that is left for display is a few chairs, tables, bigger tables, smaller chairs, bigger chairs and smaller tables. The wooden floor is polished, polished by the few visitors which visit this place every day. My friends, Indonesian friends are with me and are watching the rooms one by one, just like me. It looks like we are in the same room every room we are in. Sometimes a wooden plank makes a squeezing sound by the footsteps of a Dutch tourist, room by room, window by window.
The windows are all closed now, probably they haven't been opened since years. The few ventilators on the high ceiling cause a very light, nice breeze in several rooms, only walking causes more. Most furniture have sings that tell you where it has come from, or where it was used for. A Dutch name, old Dutch name which doesn't mean nothing to me at all. A very sad discovery that I don't even know a mayor of Batavia, as Jakarta was called during the colonial period.

Walking through the buildings two floors didn't turn out to be very interesting in the way of seeing a lot of different things. It was just more of the same, but it was interesting enough for me to get behind on the others, surprisingly enough. While they rested in one of the warm rooms, I was interestingly checking furniture and other strange objects, like small treasure-like objects from the Dutch.
View While the trip to the museum ended, we went downstairs, because there still was a small surprise. Where did the Dutch hold their prisoners? Yes, in prisons under the city hall! Believe it or not, but there were several small dungeon-like dark chambers at the back-side of the city hall. They are now used to hide the heavy iron cannon-balls that have probably been found in the environment, but they definitely were not designed to hold cannon-balls, but prisoners. One of the chambers was opened, and while it had a closed wooden door and two small windows, it was fairly dark at the back. I had to look where I was walking, because of the cannon-balls and I also had to watch my head, because the hight was 1,5 meters at max.
The small quare garden with only one tree was now home to a few chicken and a crew which was obviously doing nothing much at a day like this, but they should probably be working at the exterior back part of the building, since scaffoldings were built alongside the wall.

Earlier this day we passed a wall with an old Dutch writing, probably several hundred years old, so even hard for me to read. I tried my best since the English/Indonesian sign didn't tell me much more than 'Writing on wall', as most sings aroun here do. I wrote about the first stone and the construction dates/periods of this 'Stadthuys'. I explained to my friends what I could read from the old Dutch words. They didn't understand anything when I read the Dutch words, but a short summary explained a lot to them. They could even tell me it was right.. What was right? That the city hall was built around that time.. Why did they know and not me?

Posted in History @ 04 February 2003 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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