Semarang, today flourishes as the capital of the province of Central Java. This modern city which has few relics of illustrious past is located at the north coast of Java. The town is divided in two parts, the northern part is lying across on the plain coast and the southern part is on the hilly side of Candi Baru and Jatingaleh area.
Semarang is a busy trading city, most of the offices, business centers, industrial estates are located in the low land, whereas the hilly part is mostly a residential area with well arranged beautiful houses with nice gardens and picturesque view to the town and the sea.
Memory of The Old Time
The official birthday of Semarang is on May 5, 1547. During that period Semarang area was part of the Kingdom of Pajang, under King Hadiwijaya. The territory of Semarang ruled by Adipati ( a kind of regent) Kyai Ageng Pandanarang II which later on became a popular religious leader ( Islamic Wali/Preacher) by the name of Sunan Bayat. ( His famous graveyard is in Bayat, nearby Klaten, Surakarta regency).
Kyai Ageng Pandanarang II was the son of Kyai Ageng Pandanarang I, the first Adipati/regent of Semarang under the Kingdom of Demak. Kyai Ageng Pandanarang I is highly respected by the people as the elder/pinisepuh in Javanese language/ of Semarang. His graveyard in Bergota attracts a lot of pilgrims up to now.
In west part of the city, there is a klenteng, Chinese temple Sam Po Kong, also known as Gedong Batu (Stone Building).
This shrine was dedicated to Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho, a high-ranking court envoy of the Ming dynasty who visited Java for the first time in 1406 and has landed at this site.
In the old part of the town, along Jalan Pekojan, there is a small alley, Gang Lombok with a lot of Chinese restaurants, stands Tay Kak Sie, the city’s biggest Chinese temple. The main temple was built in 1772. It is a beautiful temple where its interior is full of carved and colorful statues of gods, ritual objects, oil lamps and brassware.
Since 1705, Semarang was under the control of the Dutch rulers. During that period, Semarang was developed economically. There were Dutch, Chinese and local traders doing business and lived in the city.
The harbor of Semarang was developed to cope with growing business. Some great warehouses, strong old buildings for offices, churches and a railway station were the remaining glory of the past busy time. It represents the ‘Little Netherland” in the town.
The charming Gereja Blenduk is the eldest Christian Church in Central Java which was consecrated in 1753. It shows the style architecture from 18th century with its huge dome and a baroque organ inside the building. Blenduk church is still in use. In the street nearby the church are dotted with old style Dutch buildings.
North to Gereja Blenduk lies the main railway station : Stasiun Tawang with its “old time” architecture. Nowadays, Stasiun Tawang caters for the executive and business passengers, while the other railway station- Poncol is for the economic class and transportation of goods.
The famous “Lawang Sewu”( The Thousand Doors), in the downtown of the city there is also a remarkable building from the “Old Dutch time”
From 1942 to 1945, Semarang was occupied by the Japanese Military Forces.
1946 to 1949 , the Dutch colonialists came back again to Semarang. It was the period for the decisive struggle for Indonesian freedom. There were political and physical struggles and wars launched by our people and freedom fighters against the occupants and its lackeys. One of the famous battle for the country’s Independence was “ The Five Days of Semarang Battle” took place 15 to 20 October 1945 against The Japanese Military.
The New City
Nowadays the city is prospering, there are many new constructions whilst keeps properly its precious memory of the bygone days. The busy street of Jalan Pemuda in downtown has some places of interest.
It is a monument dedicated to the young fighters of Independence commemorating “The Five Days Heroic Battle of Semarang’.
It is a famous square with many shops and cinemas around it. In the early morning, that spot is a favorite place for jogging while in the evening many people enjoy walking along the street and do window-shopping.
This mosque shows a mixture of old and new design.
The museum is located at Jalan Abdulrahman. It exposes brief history of the country and displays cultural historical development of earth and human life.
It is a nice park on the beach exhibiting traditional houses from every regency of Central Java where specific handicrafts of each region are displayed.
ART AND CULTURE
Besides a business town, Semarang managed to preserve its cultural inheritance. There were two famous groups of Wayang Orang ( Human Wayang Theater), namely :
Ngesti Pandowo which performed every single nite at Jalan Pemuda, now it had moved to a modest premises in Pedurungan area and the performance changed to once a week. In the old days, Ngesti Pandowo from time to time performed in other cities of Central and East Java.
Sri Wanito means “The Queen of women”in Javanese language. All players and dancers were women. Too bad that this group can’t survive for long.
Wayang Kulit Performance
In the 1960-1970, Semarang had a senior dhalang- Shadow puppet master, his namw was Ki Nartosabdo,the late who was very skilful in manipulating the wayang and had a high knowledge of Javanese philosophy, thus made him famous and popular dhalang in Java! Nowadays, there are younger dhalangs who perform regularly, on the 17th day of every month in The Governor’s office and every Friday Kliwon in TBRS, Jalan Sriwijaya.
In the effort to preserve traditional culture, there are a number of cultural associations such as PERMADANI and SRI MARDI ASTUTI which organize regularly Javanese ritual ceremonies.
At the beginning of fasting month, the month of Puasa is organized DUGDERAN Festival.
It takes place in the front yard of Grand Mosque in Pasar Johar area. The name “dugderan” comes from the sound of the mosque drum and firecrackers. This festive program including bazaar takes a few days.
Chinese Cultural Celebrations
There is a significant Semarang people of Chinese origin. In daily life, they speak in Javanese language, but they still preserve highly their ancestral culture. They organize grandiose cultural celebrations commemorating Chinese Holidays. It takes place in front of Sam Po Kong/Gedung Batu and Tay Kak Sie Temple. It is a colorful live procession and dances of decorated horses and Liong Dragons.
JAMU (Herbal Medicine) MUSEUMS
Jamu is already popular in this country since the ancient period. As for the common people, jamu or herbal medicine is medicine that keeps our bodies healthy and cures any kind of disease.
Jamu is available everywhere. In the old days, jamu was carried on the back of a woman seller, therefore it is popularly named as Jamu Gendong. Today, jamu is packed like a modern medicine and can be found in almost every shop and modern mall. There are plenty trade marks of jamu, among other are Jamu Sido Muncul, Jamu Jago and Jamu Nyonya Meneer.
Semarang has 2 museums dedicated to Jamu :
- Nyonya Meneer in Jalan Raya Kali Gawe
- Jago in Jalan Setia Budi.
The city of Semarang is easily accessible. The airport name is Ahmad Yani, its harbor is Tanjung Mas, the bus terminal is Terboyo. The railway stations are Tawang which was built in 1870 and Poncol. Travelers are served by taxi, bus, public SUV and becak.
There are a lot of restaurants and cake shops offering delicacies of Javanese, Indonesian, Chinese and European cuisine. One can easily find the tasty food in Jalan Pemuda, Pasar Johar, Simpang Lima , Jalan Gajah Mada, Gang Lombok, Jalan A.Yani etc. Semarang is well-known for its Lumpia ( Special spring rolls), the cakes of Pia, Wingko and its Tendered Fish (Bandeng Presto).
KOPI SEMAWIS- abbreviation of Komunitas Pecinan Semarang Untuk Pariwisata, “Semarang Chinese Community to develop tourism” promotes actively tourist development in Semarang by organizing food fair every week-end in Gang Pinggir.
The city of Semarang is growing to be a metropolitan. It meets the requirements of a modern city with developments of education, culture as well as infrastructure, industry and business. There are plenty hotels from back packers to star-rated hotels to accommodate visitors. To be continued.
Edited by Arie Suryo