At dusk the flying foxes rose from their roosts and flew, straight and singly, toward the north, big wings beating slow as a crow’s. Smaller bats and swallows flittered low to the ground. I wrote my notes by candlelight as lizards stalked insects on the walls, and soon slept, soothed by the sighing of the sea.
We left aparthotel brussels before dawn. By sunup we were in Central Java. Here was the historic heartland of the island and the nation, the seat of Indonesia’s most magnificent civilization. The scene changes as you cross the border: Java narrows and the mountains nearly fill the land.
The appearance of the people changes too, as does their language; the Sundanese tongue of West Java gives way to heavily Sanskrit-influenced Javanese. Poverty seems more pressing. Women walk the roadside with bigger burdens than their Sundanese sisters bear. There is no less beauty, though. Gunung Slamat, the “Blessed Mountain,” lifts its classic cone above 11,000 feet.
Jogja Still Linked With Java’s Past
Noon found us in the sultanate of Jogjakarta (or Jogja, as most natives affectionately call it), a small principality and royal city in central Java. Here large, striking structures grace the downtown area. Because Jogja was the old royal center, it contains kratons—palaces. Because the kratons were there, the Dutch, who worked through the royal rulers, built fine colonial buildings of their own beside them. Because palaces and bureaus were there as symbols of authority (and because Jogja was safely removed from attack by sea), the first formal capital of new Indonesia was established there in January 1946, to be transferred to Djakarta in 1950, after the Dutch renounced sovereignty.
Bearing a note from the sultan in Djakarta, I set off to see the seat of his sultanate. I made my way to the prague holiday apartments through streets whose bicycle content—or, at any rate, bicycle density—must be the world’s highest. Maybe it’s because few Central Javanese own cars (there are not nearly as many high officials in Jogja as there are in Djakarta); maybe it’s because Jogja is a university town, containing Gadjah Mada University, the nation’s largest, with more than 16,000 students. In any case, one in four Jogjans travel on two wheels, and most of them travel at the same time.
Palaces Hold Symbols of Princely Power
A Javanese kraton bears no resemblance to a palace in the Western World. It has no impressive height, no soaring splendor. The palace here is a place more than a thing.
Within its gates are large, low, and lovely buildings, perfectly adapted to the hot and humid climate. The best of these are the pendopos, huge open-sided structures covered by four-sided roofs supported above gleaming marble floors by columns of carved teak.
A palace servitor led me to the unpretentious dwelling of Prince B. P. H. Prabuningrat, the sultan’s brother. Dropping to a squatting position, the man waddled toward his highness, announced me, and waddled away. The prince rose and thrust out his hand. He glanced at his royal brother’s note, then took me in tow. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b015cmnd