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Kotagede a Historic Neighborhood in Yogyakarta
Approximately five kilometres from Yogyakarta Sultanate Palace, lies the ancient capital of Mataram kingdom called Kotagede or the Great City. Its first Sultan, Panembahan Senopati established this city by opening a forest called Alas Mentaokin in late 16th century. This capital city has been moved several times, following the Sultans changes and political situation before it finally returned to its original location near Kotagede. Located right on the east bank of Gajah Wong river, this city is known as the witness to the dawn of Mataram Sultanate back in the time. Nowadays, people could still easily find the remnants of the old Kingdom by visiting and exploring this glorious squared district.
Here you can find a symbolic historical buildings Makam Hasta Kitha Ageng (Mataram Royal Cemetery), Masjid Agung Kotagede (Great Mosque of Kotagede), Pasar Gede Bird Market or Pasar Legi and Batu Gilang ancient outer city wall site. This remaining historical landmark marking one of famous historical events during the Mataram era, when the colonial government decided to divide the sultanate into two separate kingdoms, Yogyakarta and Surakarta Sultanates with the signage of Gayanti Treaty in 1755. By the end of the 19th century, this city transformed itself into a centre of silver workshops and production in Yogyakarta. This transformation mainly caused by the growing demand of oriental motives on the European market.
Kotagede early silverware products were mostly depicting stories from the Ramayana inspired by Prambanan Temple. This silver boom gave rise to 'Kalang' conglomerates. They then built opulent mansions in a mix of Dutch and Malay style, only few of these mansions survived and can still be found on Jalan Tegalgendu. However Kotagede’s early silver work suffered a different fate, most of them did not survive running their business in Yogyakarta but their works could still be admired at Tropen museum in Amsterdam where around 62,000 Kotagede silverware are kept.
The best way to enjoy Kotagede is by foot. During its market day in Javanese calendar which falls on Legi, you could start the journey from famous bird market at 7.00 AM, watching the bird sellers and hearing local flock's sound festivities. There, you can explore the market area for silversmiths and shops before going south to the Royal Cemetery. With a small donation around IDR 20,000 you could enter the inner sanctum of the cemetery in which the 81th Sultans were buried in Javanese royal court wardrobe.
Right across the cemetery, there is 'Kampung Alun-alun' that was built on the royal courtyard. Other interesting artefacts are the Watu Gilang site and the ancient walls of the old city that believed to be the usual spot where the royal palace used to stand. Do not miss to stroll along Gajah Wong River during afternoon, especially during sunset where you can have a glimpse of Kotagede locals’ favourite pastime activity, a freshwater fishing. During the dawn you can continue your walk to north towards Lapangan Karang, there you will be greeted by numerous delicious street food from beef satay to fried catfish for dinner.
Kotagede is also famous for its unique architecture and history, you might find traditional Javanese architecture, colonial houses, and 'Kalang' mansions spread across this ancient neighbourhood, many have been restored after the Merapi earthquake in 2012. One of the best preserved houses is Omah UGM owned by Gajah Mada University in Kampung Jagalan, west of Pasar Legi.
For local experience accommodation, you can stay at Bhumi Hostel at Jalan Raden Ronggo No.14 Prenggan, Kotagede Yogyakarta 55172. It is a 'jenky'-style home built in 1976, a lovely family home that was converted into a beautiful and intimate hostel with 4 dormitories and 1 private room with excellent service at affordable prices.
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