Solo (Surakarta) and around
Situated between three of Java's highest volcanoes - Gunung Merapi (2911 m) and Gunung Merbabu (3142 m) to the west, and Gunung Lawu (3265 m) to the east - Surakarta, better known simply as 'Solo', is Central Java's second royal city. The kraton (palace) of the great ancient kingdom of Mataram was moved to Surakarta in the 1670s and the town remained the negara (capital) of the kingdom until 1755, when the VOC divided Mataram into three sultanates - two in Solo and one in Yogya. Although foreigners usually regard Yogya as Java's cultural heart, the Javanese often attach the sobriquet to Surakarta. Solo's motto is 'Berseri' - an acronym for Bersih, Sehat, Rapi, Indah (clean, healthy, neat, beautiful) - and the city has won several awards for being the cleanest in Indonesia.
Solo is more relaxed, smaller and much less touristy than Yogya and has wide tree-lined streets. There are bicycle lanes (on the main east-west road - Jalan Slamet Riyadi) that are almost as busy as the main roads. Reflecting the bicycle-friendly character of Solo, many tour companies run cycling tours of the city. Solo has gained a reputation as a good place to shop; not only is it a centre for the sale of batik - with a large market specializing in nothing else - there is also an 'antiques' market that's worth visiting.