Ruins and glory is history’s lot, Oh the thrill when the car was got*

It was the day to pick up the car in the afternoon, which meant that I couldn’t venture too far in the morning. There was some frantic tossing of the coin to choose from a ride to Henley-on-Thames and Oxford some 100 miles away to Baddesley Clinton and Kenilworth next door. After a sumptuous breakfast, the decision was made and Kenilworth won.

Kenilworth is just 6 miles from the hotel, but I wanted to save my energy for traipsing around the castle, so a 10-minute taxi ride it was. I’m still marvelling at how short the distances are, and how little time it takes to drive from one place to another.

The Kenilworth castle has hundreds of years of history associated with it, some wars, some sieges, some romance. It was first built in the early 12th century as a single structure, then was expanded by successive rulers into a palace fortress surrounded by a ‘dammed’ lake and finally a renaissance palace before it was destroyed, and now is preserved as a heritage structure.

The self-guided tour is wonderful; the history and architecture dished out in bite-sized doses, as you walk around the various points of interest. There was a school trip in progress while I was there. It was almost as much fun to watch them learn about the castle from the teacher who was making it come alive with stories about kings and battles and lots of playacting.

A significant part of the tour is dedicated to the story of how Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wooed Queen Elizabeth I, by buiding new sections to the castle and a beautiful garden for her. There’s an exhibition on this piece of history in the gatehouse. And I have to go back and watch the movie Elizabeth by Shekhar Kapur.

The stables now house a cafe, where I had my lunch of cheese and chutney sandwich and a pot of tea with a fudgy brownie. Set off by bus to Leamington, picked up a very nice car with satellite navigation, and got back to the hotel to spend the evening planning out the route for today.

Jamie and Denise had promised us a Scottish dinner of haggis (veggie for me), but Tammy put her foot down and we ended up at a fabulous Italian restaurant instead. The menu sounded like Italian-English fusion, and I thoroughly enjoyed my beetroot risotto with grilled goat cheese tart and caramelised onions. Souvik had chicken with butternut squash. The food was delicious, but the company was super, and we had a madly entertaining evening.

*Now there’s a pressure to do this daily, and Souvik has started to protest!

A Study Tour to Banten

One fine Sunday morning, a bunch of us from the Indonesian Heritage Society set out to nearby Banten for a tour. This is part of our Forts, Ports and Palaces study group, which is as fun as its name.

Banten is about an hour’s drive from Jakarta, and in its heyday, was one of the reasons for the Dutch supremacy in the archipelago. According to one account, when the Mataram empire wanted to fight the Dutch in Batavia (now Jakarta) to gain control of Java, Banten, their rival, did not support them, and the Dutch won that battle, and eventually over generations succeeded in establishing themselves all over. During that period, Banten lost its own shine, and is now not even a shadow of its old self, as even the palaces have been long destroyed, leaving almost nothing off their heritage structures. Yeah, I’ve been studying.

There’s a tiny but interesting museum that shows some of the town’s former glory, primarily their water pipeline system (in pictures only) that would filter water from the reservoir and reach the palace in purified form. They also have a few remnants from the palace structure

Banten Banten

The karaton or palace was razed by the Dutch but the grounds have been preserved as a heritage site.

Sunday is market day in the village, and most of the folks seem to like to hang out at the masjid near the market. There were hordes by the sultan’s graves, on the minaret, all over the masjid, in the heat, just having a good time.

After the sultan was banished from the old palace, he built a second one nearby, which was also subsequently destroyed.

Besides the palace ruins, we also saw a little of the port, and a Chinese temple (the best preserved structure) across what used to be the Dutch garrison.

There’s not much to see, in terms of checkbox for being there and doing that, but some food for thought on how a large kingdom could come to this state.


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The beauty of ruins

This year I joined a study group called Sanctuaries of the Gods, which focuses on the temples or Candi in Indonesia from the Majapahit era, and some more. Last month we went on an excellent tour around the sacred Mount Penanggungan in East Java, to study the structures (or what’s left of them) at Trowulan, and Jalatunda, and some interesting bathing pools. Although there’s a lot of restoration being done, sadly most of the ancient carvings have been displayed at a local museum than at the original sites.

Just an hour out of Surabaya, the landscape changed completely from bustling traffic to green countryside – a great reason to stop for photos.

Study tour

Study tour

Study tour

I’m guessing that’s Mount Penanggungan in the distance

We stayed overnight in an environmental centre PPLH Seloliman – nice place, but roughing it out is good for one night only!

Study tour

The locals in the village had their entertainment at the sight of foreigners peering at what must look like a big pile of stones:

Study tour