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EINDHOVEN (THE NETHERLANDS) - From Jogja, it’s just a short trip by motorbike to Solo, also known as Surakarta. Short is relative, because it takes about as long as a train ride from my current hometown of Eindhoven to Amsterdam, somewhere between 75 and 90 minutes. The road to Solo is quite easy. In fact it’s one long road which starts near the Tugu monument, in downtown Jogja. Travelling to the east the road is named Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Jl. Urip Sumoharjo, Jl. Adisucipto and finally Jl. Solo, starting outside the Jogja outer road, which can bring you to any side of Jogja in a matter of 30 minutes by motorbike.

At first you will find yourself in the city crowds of motorbikes, buses, cars, trucks and some becak, however you won’t find them much on the main roads. After passing Ambarukmo Hotel, which most looks like a Suharto era building which never made it to international public and houses the Jogja Garuda Indonesia office (simply book tickets there if you are staying somewhere near it). After the new flyover (finished in 2003) you have passed the most busy part of the road until as far as the Solo city area.
The main road here is as wide as three lanes for both directions, separated by a double white line, sometimes vague, sometimes clear, but always neglected by bus drivers, which use the ‘fourth lane’ as their overturn lane for passing trucks with sand which barely reach the 80 km/h mark. Buses usually speed a little more by reaching speeds upto somewhere like 90 km/h. Dangerous? Ooh well, everything is relative, it’s just not recommended to drive without your eyes open and your mind fully focussed at the traffic, which will pass you everywhere. Even the fourth lane, something like a parking space, or a place to sell your products, can be used by motorbikes, overturning buses that stop, their drivers barely missing women and children getting out with their freight.

Trips of just over one hour are not boring at all. There is really much to see outside the traffic and the road itself, hence the holes in the road. You must be aware of those. Sometimes a truck is broken down, but they are usually marked with a freshly picked bunch of bamboo or a tree branch. At least they are not moving, so you won’t get distracted too much by that. Also watch for children crossing the street. Sometimes an old man with a bike and bamboo will obstruct some lanes as well, don’t worry too much about that as buses, trucks, cars and motorbikes will alert all other traffic with using their horns a little too much.
On your way to Solo, you can make stops everywhere to get something to drink, go for a snack, or just have a rest. For me, I can sit down on the motorbike for about two or three hours before my ass will hurt, so the trip to Solo is a fairly short one. After passing a few bridges, some more pasars and villages, there is Solo, together with it’s suburbs and it’s one million residents. It must be very crowded here.. well. It was a Sunday and it was everything accept crowded.

The main roads were wider than the road from Jogja, but even less traffic was present here. Looking where they all went was of no use, since they didn’t hide in the smaller streets or at the parkings near the train station. Strange as I thought it was, I went out for the kraton here. I know it was closed, but the stalls were supposed to be open all days of the week here. I would love to grab a drink, a snack and maybe some oleh-oleh for my family, but I just had to see them as I still refuse to go and search for them.

I parked my motorbike near some shops, along the road directly at the alun-alun of the kraton, also featuring the two waringin trees. The field inside the outer – well maintained - fence of the kraton is almost empty. Activity around it, however, is much more vibrant. I wanted to walk around the entire fence, and that is what I did. I had a fresh and cold teh es manis, one with a few big chunks of ice and three full spoons of sugar.. Yum yum!
The vicinity of the kraton features a market on which you can buy virtually everything. It starts with old books with some kites and changes to clothes. You will find food and drinks everywhere, since they are always important in Indonesia. After about a quarter of the trip, there is the kraton mosque, which reminded me most like a building from the Fata Morgana wildwater adventure in ‘De Efteling’, a Dutch themepark. I think it must have been the color that does this, everything else looks like a fairly normal mosque.

 The kraton mosque
The kraton mosque

Continuing my trip towards the main building, the market stops and is replaced by white walls, the walls of several buildings of the kraton. Most of these walls are located directly along the fairly narrow roads, with no pavement besides them. It gave me the feeling that I was walking in some kind of prison area. These high white walls without any pavement along the streets continued as far as the opposite side of the building.
There was an open fence and some people inside. Some youngsters which enjoyed their day off under a young tree. Another small group tried to bring a visit to the two waringin trees, but the main fence to the field was closed, so they had to climb over it. With a water bottle in one hand and a bag in the other, climbing is not very easy. I found it quite amusing that they kept on trying. I continued my way, sometimes sipping some water from my still cold Aqua bottle.
The open hall with white tiles, instead of the expected marble tiles, offered an even better place to take a nap. So did the people normally cleaning the floor, putting up tables and chairs for events, and the guard with his newspaper over his head. I was free to go where I wanted and brought a visit to the back side of the building. I noticed some old cannons there. They must be Dutch ones, since they were put on display here. And indeed… they were Dutch.
After finishing the complete trip around the inner part of the kraton it was time for some refreshment. Another drink and some rest will do the trick for me. Soon it was time to get on my motorbike again so I could see some more of Solo. However I was only here for about two hours, with a few hours left, I still wanted to see more than just the outside of the kraton. I was starting to see this trip as something like an expedition. Maybe I would go back to spend some more time here, getting more into details at some parts. But for now it was just merely cruising around.

The wide lanes of Solo formed a nice opportunity to enjoy some freshness when driving at a reasonable speed. Traffic lights work at Sundays here as well, however there’s not much traffic after all, but well… What’s the big deal of it? At least I took a look in some side streets. Sometimes I changed my mind by suddenly turning left or right, until I bumped into a small group of campaigners which were campaigning for PKB. I tried to follow them, but turning around and stopping for the red light wasn’t of much help to me. I lost them and tried to find them. No luck.
After a few turns to the left and right I gave up and found my way to the railroad station. There is a small series of food stalls there, which are – of course – opened on Sundays as well. Some iced tea again, together with mi goreng almost finished my day in Solo. I got on my bike again, and with a trip through the outskirts of Solo and Solo Baru it was time to go home before dark, not knowing there would be a huge thunderstorm to come.



Posted in Travel @ 13 August 2004 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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