Semarang is one of the cities located on the coastal area of North Java, which is also the capital city of Central Java Province. Since the 8th century, Semarang, at that time was named Pragota, was the major harbor of Mataram Kuno Kingdom that was centered in Yogyakarta. This harbor was the center of departure for the seamen of Mataram Kuno, who could sail to Tanjung Harapan, Africa, and Madagascar, long before the European sailors had their voyage and before Christopher Columbus found Africa. As the Javanese Port, Semarang was not only a dock for the local, but also for the foreign ships from the whole part of the world. In other word, Semarang was a gate for international trading route. Through Pragota harbor, Mataram Kuno exported rice and imported cotton from India. Later, the cooperation continued to cultural domain and trust, which was proven by the existence of Candi Gedong Songo (Gedong Songo Temple) on the slope area of Ungaran Mountain (13 kilometers from Rawa Pening).
In the 15th century, Pragota was called on by a big ship led by Admiral Cheng Ho, a Chinese that was well-known because of his peaceful diplomatic journey to many parts of the world using colossal fleet. To commemorate him, a great temple named Sam Poo Kong was build. Then, the Chinese culture brought by Cheng Ho and his people assimilated with the local one, so that there was a mixed culture that influenced each other in many fields, especially in Gastronomy (culinary). The examples of this acculturation are the legendary Soto Bangkong, Tahu Pong, and lumpia (Lumpia Gang Lombok), which are the combination of Javanese and Chinese culinary. Later, the Chinese descendants, who permanently stay in Semarang, live in an area that is called Pecinan.
Not far from this location, there is a site consists of old building with European architectural style, which is called Kota Lama or Little Netherland. Located around Berok River, there is an area surrounded by canal and polder, which became the center of Semarang city in the Dutch colonialism era. One of the buildings that become the landmark of this city is Blenduk church. After enjoying the beauty of Kota Lama, itís better for you to visit Toko Oen, a legendary restaurant since 1936 with various kinds of Dutch food that is cooked with classic recipe.
The glory of Semarang as a lively port did not only happen in the past, but it is still continuing up to now. In the past, Pragota harbor was a dock for Cheng Hoís ship, and now, it becomes a dock for luxury passenger ship containing foreign tourists. It also developed into industrial city, a place where the first Indonesian jamu (herbal medicine) company established. The history of the development of this company can be seen in Museum Rekor Indonesia (Indonesia Record Museum / MURI) that is managed by PT. Jamu Jago and Museum Jamu Nyonya Meneer.
Not only having cultural attraction, Semarang also posses many glorious worth-visit buildings with interesting architectural style. In the area of Pecinan, there is various size of temple that can be an interesting reference of architectural journey. Moreover, Lawang Sewu that was constructed with art deco style has twins tower in front. This building, which was originally named as Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorweg Maatshcappij (NIS), was actually built as the Dutch Railways Division. For you who are interested in architectural trip, a visit to Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (The Great Mosque of Central Java) on Gajah Street is a right choice with its six hydraulic umbrellas and a ninety-nine-meters lighthouse that combine an architectural style from Middle East, Rome, and Java.
As the last recommendation for your excellent trip to Semarang, we suggest you to visit Gardu Pandang Gombel in Semarang Atas (the highland area of Semarang). From this place, you can see the beautiful scenery of Semarang city in the evening with its special view. You can also see ships and vessels back and forth in the harbor. Not only that, when the sun goes down and closes the day, there will be fantastic colors appear. To complete your journey before you really leave this city, donít forget to buy special food from Semarang, wingko babat and bandeng presto, in the gift shop on Pandanaran Street.
Semarang is located 121 kilometers to the North of Yogyakarta, or about 3 hours driving (private or public transport). You can ride second class public buses (economic class) with a frequent time schedule, or there are also the first class public busses (executive class) with air conditioning system that will make you more comfortable. Besides that, a railway route from Yogyakarta to Semarang is also available once in two days. You can use Banyubiru train to travel in this route.
Executive-class bus from Yogyakarta to Semarang (IDR 35,000 for 3 hours). Economic-class bus from Yogyakarta to Semarang (IDR 20,000). Rahayu Tour and Travel Agent (+62 274 561322, Diponegoro Street No. 9, Yogyakarta) will be available from Yogyakarta to Semarang (IDR 40,000 for 3 hours) at 7 a.m, 9 a.m, 11 a.m, 1 p.m, 3 p.m, and 5 p.m.
Pramex train (IDR 11,000 for 50 minutes) departs every day from Tugu and Lempuyangan train station in Yogyakarta to Balapan train station in Solo at 5:35a.m, 6:35a.m, 8:35a.m, 9:35a.m, 10:35a.m, 1:35p.m, 2:35p.m, 4:35p.m, 5:35p.m, and 7:35 p.m. Pandanwangi train (IDR 13,000 for 3 hours) departs from Balapan train station to Tawang train station in Semarang every day at 5 a.m and 1 p.m.
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