In the museum of Surakarta's kraton. Image: Asienreisender, 2012
Solo is often compared with Yogyakarta as an alternative for a cultural city, but with little tourism. Well, after all the difference is not so big. Both are relatively boring cities. Both have a Sultan's palace (Kraton), Solo has even two. But, inside it's not more interesting than in Yogyakarta. A few family pictures, old weapons, dishes in big rooms. The Javanese authorities neglect their culture and history.
Solo is of course crowded as well, and the traffic is at the brink of collapsing. After all little reason to go there.
The only two highlights are some kilometers out of Solo. There is Sangiran, the site where fossils and remains of early men - Homo erectus javanicus - and prehistorical animals were discovered from 1891 on. It's the site of the famous 'Java Man'. Though, he is not the predecessor of Homo sapiens, who came later from Africa, according to the actual theories. There is a museum there since long, and meanwhile, since December 2011 it's upgraded to a new, bigger complex.
Candi Sukuh, an extraordinary Hindu sanctuary reminding to mesoamerican Maya pyramides. Image: Asienreisender, 2012
The other sites are at the foot of Gunung Lawu. It's two Hindu temples in a funny architecture. They look like middle-American Maya temples (Candi Sukuh and Candi Ceta).
To go there one has to take a bus to Kemuning, another village in a valley. From there it's a five kilometers walk (no public transport, alternatively an ojec) through huge tea plantations upwards a serpentine road; an increasingly steep walk. Candi Ceta stretches then another 190 meters up a slope to the edge of a forest.
Going to Candi Sukuh next means to walk back to Kemuning and having another five kilometers walk back the road direction Karangpandan (on the way to Solo) and a bit later turning left. It's another steep walk. Candi Sukuh looks even more exotic. Both sites costs 10,000 Rupees entrance for foreigners (3,000 for Indonesians).
The old hindu temples are not only curious looking but showing a number of strange reliefs with fable beings and animals of different kinds. The surrounding is mountainous, green and pleasant. Although even here, in a rather remote area, are too many motorbikes around. Java is suffering an annual traffic increase of 10 to 15% annualy these years. Accellerated madness.
The bus trip back wasn't that easy then. In Karangpandan I was waiting together with a growing crowd for the next bus to Solo. When it arrived after more than one hour, it was already very crowded. All the waiting passengers were crammed in additionally. When we started, bunches of people were hanging out of both the open doors. After that the bus conductor climbed monkeylike over the passengers and demanded the fare. Almost impossible to get the wallet out of the pocket being so squished. Again: If one does not know the fare, the conducter cheats. Not having fitting money means that the change disappears in the conductor's pocket without any further comment. They never give you a break here with that.
Later, I couldn't see anything around for the bus was so full, the bus dropped me anywhere in Solo and I realized that I hadn't a clue where I was. It was rush-hour and nobody could give me any useable information. Wasn't easy to find a bus which went to my direction. After a long drive this bus also dropped me far away from my guesthouse. The longest part of this trip was the way back.