Sixty-five kilometres northeast of Yogya stands quiet, leafy low-rise Surakarta, or, as it’s more commonly known, Solo. This is the older of the two royal cities in Central Java, and its ruling family can lay claim to being the rightful heirs to the Mataram dynasty.
Not long after their establishment – in 1745 and 1757 respectively – Solo’s two royal houses wisely stopped fighting and instead threw their energies into the arts, developing a highly sophisticated and graceful court culture. The gamelan pavilions became the new theatres of war, with each city competing to produce the more refined court culture – a situation that continues to this day.
Like Yogya, Solo has two royal palaces and a number of museums, yet its tourist industry is nowhere near as developed. The city’s main source of income is from textiles, and Solo has the biggest batik market on Java. Solo also makes an ideal base from which to visit the home of Java Man at Sangiran, as well as the intriguing temples Candi Ceto and Candi Sukuh.