The perennial rival to Yogyakarta, Surakarta – aka ‘Solo’ – is Java’s second royal capital. It was established in the mid 18th century by King Pakubuwono II, one of the main descendants of the Mataram Sultans, and continues to be an important hub of Javanese culture, despite having been largely eclipsed by its better-known counterpart. Music (particularly gamelan) and traditional courtly dance are still widely studied and performed here. The great local speciality, however, is batik. Some of the finest textiles in all Indonesia originate in the city, and you can admire superb antique pieces in the famous Danar Hadi museum. As at Yogyakarta, two royal
As at Yogyakarta, two royal Kraton palaces survive, dating from the years after 1745 when European power was in the ascendency and the local rulers became de facto puppets of the Dutch East India Company. Other vestiges of past splendour lie in the hills outside Solo, where a number of ancient temple sites nestle amid the terraced greenery, volcanoes smoking on the horizon.