Kota Lama: Between Restoration and Reinvention

Asia, Indonesia, Southeast

Kota Lama in the spotlight

Part 2 of 4

Only time will tell.

This cliché has been proven over and over again. We’ll never know what the future has in store, and despite our best efforts to anticipate what lies ahead, in the end we have to let time do its magic. And many events around the world are a testament to this.

Going back to the 18th century, at a time when Singapore was beginning to position itself as one of Southeast Asia’s most important trading ports, which attracted many Chinese migrants to resettle on the island, and when Hong Kong – in the wake of Imperial China’s defeat to the British in the Opium Wars – was starting to see a surge in its once diminutive economy, Semarang on the northern coast of Java was also on the cusp of change. Around this time in history, the Dutch and the British who were the most dominant players in Asian trade – especially that of spices – had already fought multiple battles against each other to secure their own economic interests. And because of this, Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother who was also the King of Holland, commissioned the Great Post Route (De Grote Postweg in Dutch) in Java to aid the Dutch defense of the island against the constant threat of invasion posed by the British.

Semarang, which was strategically located in the middle of the newly-built road that stretched from west to east across the island, immensely benefitted from its construction. The port city’s economy grew and soon enough it became a major trade center in Java. This prompted the Dutch colonial administration to give concessions to private businesses to establish railway companies, connecting Semarang with other port cities along Java’s north coast as well as to the island’s hinterland, making transporting crops from plantations to ports much faster and easier. These thriving trade activities led to a construction boom in Semarang’s central business district. An 18th-century Protestant church – now better known as the Blenduk Church – which sat right at the heart of this area underwent a major renovation that gave it its current iconic look. Grand office buildings sprang up on the east bank of the Semarang River (which in the past was navigable by small boats) as well as along the busy streets within this commercial quarter.

The city seemed to be doing quite well for decades despite some challenges it faced: the port could have been better managed and it would give the economy a further boost had the existing railways owned by different companies been linked and integrated.

Then came World War II that ended in 1945. A few days after Japan’s surrender to the Allies, the nationalists in the former Dutch East Indies declared the independence of Indonesia, not only from the Japanese who controlled this archipelago since 1942, but also from the Dutch who had been reaping huge economic benefits from this vast colony for centuries. Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president who was staunchly nationalist, then shunned almost everything that was a reminder of colonial times. His attitude inevitably had an impact on many buildings constructed by the Dutch, leading to the neglect of some and the abandonment of others. This condition was exacerbated by Suharto, the country’s second president and an authoritarian military figure who ruled the nation for 32 years. Contrary to his predecessor whose ideological idealism seemed to be of utmost importance in the way the nascent republic was run, Suharto was more focused on the economy – stabilizing it and laying out the path toward future growth – and on enriching himself, his children and his cronies. This money-first approach led to the demolition of many historic buildings in the name of development. Modern offices, hotels and malls are often constructed right on top of their foundations.

Those that survived, including the ones in Semarang’s Kota Lama – the former commercial center of the city during the Dutch colonial administration – were often left to slowly decay although many of them were still being used as office buildings. At night time, however, when salarymen had returned home, something else came and filled the dark corners of the streets: crime. Many people recall a period of time when Kota Lama was a place to avoid after sunset. My mother who was born and raised in the city told me that in the past there were a lot of gali, Javanese for thugs, in and around this part of Semarang. To make matters worse, due to the combination of land subsidence, rising sea levels and Kota Lama’s proximity to the coastline, this area frequently suffered from coastal flooding. So much for what was once a thriving business and trade hub of the then-important port.

After moving around Indonesia for more than 20 years due to the nature of his work, in the late 2000s my father eventually returned to Semarang, the city where he went to university and met his future wife – my mother. Coincidentally, for a few months from late 2007 to early 2008, I was taking a break after running an unsuccessful food business and before entering the job market. In this slow period of my life, I took the time to know more about the city where I was born but had never really lived. With an old 2 megapixel pocket camera in hand, I visited Kota Lama for the first time – early in the morning, of course. I remember parking near Marba Building, a 19th-century two-story structure that is easily distinguishable by its red-brick façade, and wandering around the old town district’s quiet streets and alleys. Many buildings were empty; it was clear that they hadn’t been occupied for years, probably even decades. The people I met were mostly local residents who stayed in this area despite its crumbling state. If only I still had the photos I took from this visit.

Little did I know that it was also around this time when the idea to restore Kota Lama to its former glory was conceived.

Blenduk Church, Kota Lama’s most iconic landmark as seen from Jalan Suari

The church dates back to the 18th century

Its iconic dome, however, was only added in the late 19th century

Marba Building, one of the most distinguishable structures in Kota Lama

This restored building is now owned by Bank Mandiri (one of Indonesia’s state-owned lenders)

Founded in 1992, Sate & Gulai Kambing 29 is one of the oldest surviving eateries in Kota Lama

Ikan Bakar Cianjur’s building in Kota Lama

Inside what was once the landraad of Semarang

Spiegel Bistro today

And how it looked in 2013

The view of Kota Lama’s main thoroughfare from Spiegel

Many people give Kota Lama the moniker the Little Netherlands for its purportedly Dutch layout and appearance. Upon closer inspection, however, some buildings in this area bear architectural features that were specifically designed to suit the tropical climate so that those people from the Low Countries could live a relatively comfortable life in their constantly hot and humid colony. Due to Kota Lama’s architectural heritage and the state of some of the structures within the old town proper that were still largely intact, architects, scholars and historians began voicing out the importance of restoring this rundown part of Semarang. Some even spread the news far beyond Indonesia by showing images and footage of Kota Lama when it was still under Dutch rule and how it looks now. This piqued the interest of some experts, notably from the Netherlands, who then flew thousands of kilometers to Semarang to see what remained of the city’s old town. Then they surveyed the old buildings, bridges and other infrastructure built by the Dutch and pointed out features regular people wouldn’t notice but are actually pivotal in pinpointing different transitional periods of architectural styles in the Dutch East Indies.

These “discoveries” contributed to the increasing aspiration to showcase Kota Lama’s historical significance to a broader audience, which in the end pushed not only the city government of Semarang, but also the national government in Jakarta to submit an application to UNESCO to enlist the old town district as a World Heritage Site. The success of neighboring Malaysia with Malacca and George Town which made it to the coveted list in 2008 was another rationale for the move.

As politicians and government bureaucrats were busy preparing for the submission, new businesses kept coming in to this area which not long ago attracted almost no one. Ikan Bakar Cianjur, a restaurant chain that started its business in 1989 in the West Javan city of Cianjur, was among the first to venture into once crime-laden Kota Lama. Occupying a handsomely-restored 18th-century landraad (the court for Europeans) building which is now among the oldest surviving structures in Kota Lama, the restaurant provides a glimpse of European grandeur the Dutch brought upon their subjects.

Then there’s Spiegel, probably the most iconic of all projects that have transformed Kota Lama in the past decade. Originally established by Viennese businessman Herman Spiegel with two other partners in the late 19th century as a shop that sold a wide variety of goods from clothing to home decorations, the building eventually became a warehouse over the course of a century. By the time of my first visit, it practically looked deserted from the outside, and most people wouldn’t even think of peeking inside. However, in 2012 a young entrepreneur from Jakarta who has roots in Semarang purchased the building and in three years’ time she breathed new life into this two-story edifice and turned it into a modern, cozy restaurant that serves good food with an equally pleasant music playlist.

Seeing how Kota Lama gradually transformed itself into a place that is actually interesting to visit, thanks to the vision and passion of those who really care about preserving heritage buildings, others began to vie for their own piece of cake out of the burgeoning business opportunities in this part of Semarang. In other words, after the right people came, so too did the greedy ones.

Tekodeko, a café in a restored 19th-century residential building

Posters inside Tekodeko

Filosofi Kopi, another coffee shop occupying an old building in Kota Lama

This rundown alley proves to be a popular spot for photos among tourists

This building is currently being restored

Nature claiming back its space

Another building which may or may not see better days ahead

The much quieter Jalan Kepodang

A small eatery occupying an abandoned building on Jalan Kepodang

Another side of the calm street

Inside a building on Jalan Kepodang that is slated for restoration

In a few years’ time this will completely change

I can’t wait for the day when the restoration project on this building is completed

The former office of Spaarbank in Kota Lama which is also being restored

The turn from Jalan Kepodang toward the main street of Kota Lama

If one visits Kota Lama today, there is only a little hint left of its gloomier past, especially on its main thoroughfare. Lampposts now line both sides of the street and provide illumination when night falls, so much so that there are probably more street lights than people at any given time. If you ask the people of Semarang what they think of Kota Lama these days, many will probably say they like how the city’s old town district now looks. But if you ask the same question to those in the know – architects, historians, heritage building conservationists and scholars – they will most likely be horrified by the changes, especially in the last few years when the city government began showing their keen interest in Kota Lama.

On the one hand the city government had been heavily promoting Kota Lama as a candidate for the World Heritage Site by 2020, but on the other hand many things they’ve been doing are against heritage building conservation principles. Those Parisian-style lamps, for example, were never a part of the original Dutch design of the old town, and then there are now Victorian-looking water fountains installed in some parts of the area (it would have made more sense if Indonesia was colonized by the British). Among the worst decisions the city government have made is approving the demolition of several buildings that were once part of a Dutch-era printing company to make space for a car park.

“It’s as if they went to Paris with the intention of going to UNESCO’s office to learn from them, but ended up seeing Euro Disney instead and took inspiration for Kota Lama from it,” a frustrated lecturer told me and James.

The conversation happened on a sunny day inside a well-restored building on Jalan Kepodang, a narrow street in Kota Lama with a different ambiance and character compared to the often crowded main road of the old town. On a map I received from Shita, the current owner of Spiegel, which shows the different designations within Kota Lama, apparently Jalan Kepodang acts as the southern boundary of the so-called Culture Zone. Along the northern side of the street, she’s working on another, more difficult project to restore an old building that is in a much worse state compared to Spiegel when she bought it. Just a few meters away, work has just begun to restore another derelict, albeit smaller, structure. Interestingly, the restoration of this rather ornate building is handled by a famous Indonesian architect better known for his clean and minimalist approach. I can’t wait to come again when all these exciting projects have been completed.

According to the same map, the eastern part of Kota Lama is the Modern Economy, Education and Services Zone. Curiously, Jalan Cendrawasih which makes up the western boundary of this zone is filled with cafés, restaurants and pubs that scream “fun” louder than “education”. And the addition of a new clubbing place on this street doesn’t really help the designation either. However, this will make more sense if we look at what lies right behind all those entertainment venues: a convent with the oldest Catholic church in Semarang, a Franciscan nunnery with a chapel, a Catholic school, and a catechetical and pastoral school. Imagine on one side people are jumping to fast-paced music and singing out loud, living their best night ever. Meanwhile, those on the other side are solemnly thinking of the divine, finding their inner peace, and also living their best night, albeit in a different manner.

On the other side of Kota Lama, behind the towering dome of the Blenduk Church and rows of unassuming buildings, is a small open-air space called Taman Garuda. It’s another quieter part of Kota Lama which I think, if done right, has great potential to be a very cool and inspiring place. At the end of Jalan Garuda is a fine building that was once the office of the Liverpool and London Globe Insurance Company as well as the site of the British consulate in Semarang. Directly across from it is another interesting building that is now closed off to the public. If some visionary entrepreneurs open an independent book shop, or a local comic store, or an art space which doubles as a venue for discussion where experts and the general public alike meet and mingle, it will be a great addition to Kota Lama’s cultural value as well as an homage to Semarang’s past as a rather progressive city. If a good bakery or a local produce store occupies one of those unused buildings, it will bring even more color to this area and make it more lively. Today, however, the kind of business most people are pursuing in Kota Lama is a coffee shop. A relatively small area can only have so many such places, though, and a variety of retail offerings will certainly be appreciated.

Those, of course, can only happen if the direction is clear: either to restore Kota Lama thoughtfully and bring it back to its heyday, or to reinvent it as a theme park and measure its success through the number of people using it as a backdrop for their selfies. A senior businesswoman we met said it’s currently a waiting game. Will those in power with a lot of money but no vision win, or will those who want to do things right and set an example for future generations prevail?

Only time will tell.

A partially collapsed building near Taman Garuda

This building once hosted the British diplomatic missions in Semarang

The same building (on the right) viewed from Jalan Branjangan

At the end of Jalan Garuda is this beautiful building owned by Suara Merdeka (the largest newspaper in Central Java)

Jalan Cendrawasih in the morning

The chapel of the Franciscan nunnery behind Jalan Cendrawasih

The office of the Canisius Foundation (Yayasan Kanisius), named after a Dutch Jesuit Catholic priest

The main thoroughfare of Kota Lama in the soft afternoon light

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

61 thoughts on “Kota Lama: Between Restoration and Reinvention”

  1. The city looks beautiful… but to me, kind of nothing like I pictured an Indonesian city to look like!! To be honest, I don’t really know what I envisaged an Indonesian city to look like (maybe more like a Bangkok or KL) but this is definitely not it! It almost looks too….. picture perfect, or “sterile”. I do love the architecture though!! Thanks for sharing mate x

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s Jakarta that has a similar feel with Bangkok or KL as all three are now pretty much defined by their skyscrapers and they’re always bustling with all kinds of activities. Semarang, on the other hand, is a lot more laid back. That sterile look might be a result of those street lamps and bollards which are detested by heritage conservationists — and me — but loved by the general public. However, if you see this place yourself, you’ll know that despite the initial appearance it’s still very much Indonesian with all the crowd and mildly chaotic scenes.


  2. What a great restoration was done to the Spiegel building! It’s also amazing to see that the building was restored in only three years. I like restored buildings, especially the ones that have a historic past. Historic buildings add value and give authenticity to the history of a destination.

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    • The successful, sensible restoration of Spiegel has inspired others to do the same with the rest of Kota Lama. I agree with you that well-preserved historical buildings make an area more alluring, not just for tourists but also for locals. Some places have proved that it can even transform a neighborhood for the better.

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  3. The restored buidlings are beautiful and I love the open areas with benches. But it’s too bad that they’re not all following the heritage of the area by putting in the wrong street lights and water fountains.The before and after (and some just before…) are really great to see what is possible. Maggie

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    • Despite those inaccuracies, in general I still find Kota Lama a nice place to visit, especially when it’s not too crowded. In my last trip to Semarang, I even stayed in an old building that has been turned into a cozy one-bedroom apartment. As you said, the ongoing revitalization of Kota Lama is a testament of what is possible, and to see how once derelict offices, warehouses and shops are now back to life is very exciting!

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  4. I can feel your joy and excitement zigzagging from alleyway to street corner gazing at one tasteful building after another. This is not the Indonesia I remember. It has a whole different feel that I’m tempted to re-expldore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I even dream of buying one of those abandoned buildings and turning it into a place dedicated for the city’s creative talents and a space for discussing Kota Lama’s future. I guess when you do return to Indonesia one day, you’ll notice many changes compared to your last visit, although I’m quire sure some things will remain the same.

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  5. The buildings are beautiful. We are no strangers to tasteless renewal; one just hopes that they are shoddily done and fall apart before the old buildings do. The Spiegel building looks like it was done with sensitivity.

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    • Some people I talked to said that as long as no damage is done to the old buildings, there’s still hope as those lampposts and bollards can be replaced in the future. In the last post of this series I’ll share some photos I took from inside Spiegel, and you will see that the building has indeed been sensibly restored.

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  6. Thank you for writing this eye-opening post, Bama! It is so heartening to read about – and witness firsthand – the ongoing revival of Kota Lama. The UNESCO World Heritage listing is a lofty goal but somewhat unnecessary… countries like China have experienced what I call the “World Heritage Curse” through which listed sites quickly become overwhelmed by the number of visitors. The character then changes completely and these places end up losing their original charm. As for the municipal government’s botched attempt at making over the streetscapes of Kota Lama, the photo captioned “The much quieter Jalan Kepodang” gives us a clue: there’s not much point installing fancy lampposts when a light bulb isn’t included!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should thank you for proposing to go to Semarang so we could meet those inspiring people and learn about Kota Lama’s restoration work. It’s true that being a UNESCO World Heritage site is not all sunshine and rainbows, and what the local authority must pursue instead is ensuring Kota Lama’s integrity and unique character so it will remain a charming part of the city for many generations to come. Speaking of the missing bulb, I wish I also took some photos of the uneven road surface despite the fact that the multi-year “revitalization” project only finished not long ago.

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  7. What a fantastic job they are doing with the restoration Bama! Bumbling municipal authorities aside, you guys seem to have marched years ahead in the heritage conservation department. I particularly love the before and after pictures. So glad this is happening in your hometown. Would give anything to witness a renaissance such as this in Mangalore 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Overall, Kota Lama is indeed in a much better state today. I love how the restoration of those old edifices shows people what we can do to our heritage buildings. Keeping them proves to have more value than razing them to the ground. I hope Mangalore will follow suit!


  8. This was an insightful read about Semarang and Kota Lama. It has an insightful history and has come along way, retaining its colonial roots while evolving into its own own character today. It sounded like back in the day Kota Lama had two sides to it: corporate hustle and bustle in the day and thugs guard the quiet streets at night – place where you can make a living if you watch your back.

    Didn’t know you ran a food business some time ago. Sorry it did not work out. You sound like a foodie who knows where the good food are and can also can good food yourself. Your photos of Kota Lama are amazing and can see the Dutch influence in the architecture. It is interesting to read Victorian elements and entertainment options have been introduced over the years, and it sounds like a plan to give Kota Lama a facelift and appeal to an even wider audience as you mentioned – modernising to appeal to a younger crowd while the history gets put away in the background. It really is a wonder as to if this will be successful in attracting people to Kota Lama in the future, especially with the current state of the world. Every popular, bustling and busy business city has always undergone changes in order to adapt and be relevant today.

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    • I’m glad crime has all but gone in Kota Lama. I would say wandering around its narrow streets and alleys is generally safe now, even at night. This part of the city will be even more attractive if more and more unused old buildings are transformed into exciting venues, especially the kinds that Semarang currently doesn’t have.

      I have always loved food, but it took me many years to come to this point where I can appreciate what I eat more than merely how it tastes.

      With its current state, Kota Lama has become a major tourist attraction in Semarang, a far cry from how it was ten years ago. But I think it’s in everyone’s interest to keep Kota Lama’s unique character because if it only imitates other historical quarters, its appeal will most likely diminish in the future.

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  9. Wonderful story Mas Bama!! I can see this Kota Lama in another perspective not only to see the beautiful building that restore, but also the problems and intentions of various parties to restore Kota Lama as it was intended. So this Kota Lama not only become a theme park to take a beautiful picture.

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    • Kota Lama is essentially a micro version of Semarang — it has offices, restaurants, shops, houses and hotels, among other things. That’s why treating it as you would a city is I think the best approach as opposed to seeing this area as an amusement park. Kota Lama has its own problems, but it also has a great potential. Managing it certainly is no mean feat; whoever at the helm of Kota Lama’s preservation effort today and in the future needs to have a clear vision of how this part of Semarang should be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ira says:

        I also agree that whoever t the helm of Kota Lama’s preservation effort today and in the future needs to have a clear vision of how this part of Semarang should be.
        I can’t wait to visit Kota Lama Semarang again and see it with different point of view.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The always-difficult balance between restoration and a loss of authenticity! I find myself stuck in the middle in my opinions on this topic in most cases and here specifically. On the one hand, you have an attractive new area (in both senses: physically appealing and apt to entice visitors) and on the other, you have an environment that has been sanitized and/or changed to incorporate elements that are not a natural part of its past. A tough call! Either way, I enjoyed your description of the placement of you and your family in this city and its history.

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    • What you said couldn’t be more true, Lex. I asked my mom what she thinks of Kota Lama now, and she said it looks great. Then I explained to her about some new additions that are not true to this area’s past, but it didn’t really change her perception of this once rundown district. Whatever the government want to add to Kota Lama, as long as they don’t alter those old buildings, is probably good enough for now.

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  11. What a wonderful mix it is at the moment. I love the restored buildings, and am hopeful that more will be restored with at least some semblance of the past incorporated rather than torn down completely and replaced with modern buildings. As you say only time will tell.

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    • Despite the rather haphazard “revitalization” work heavily leaning on the beautification of Kota Lama, the fact that businesses are coming and restoring more old buildings is encouraging — as long as it’s not another coffee shop because this area already has too many of them. It’s interesting to see all the changes happening there right now.

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  12. What a fascinating look into the history and modern day restoration of Kota Lama, Bama. I must confess that my heart always beats a bit faster when I see derelict buildings. Like you point out, it really takes a delicate balance of vision and respect for the past in order to restore old buildings in a way that keep their history intact, while adapting to the needs of modern society. I hope more diverse businesses will move into the area, as it clearly has a lot of potential to return to being the beating heart of the community.

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    • I also feel that way when I see derelict buildings, especially those with really beautiful architectural features. Just a few days ago Kota Lama and some other parts of Semarang were flooded due to a 12-hour torrential downpour in the city. I really hope this won’t cause significant damage to this area.


  13. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about Kota Lama that reminds me of Casco Antigua in Panama City, Panama – another historic district that’s being restored piecemeal. It’s already been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site but is in danger of losing that because of some of the restorations are far from authentic. Maybe it’s your photos of the crumbling old buildings with nature taking over, right next to beautifully restored architecture. I LOVED your before/after photos of the Spiegel building. Also, your photo of the Bank Mandari building is strikingly like many of the colonial buildings here in Colombia! I wonder if there was a Spanish/Portuguese influence there?

    Anyway, another fascinating post. I really enjoyed it!
    – Susan

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    • I remember seeing some photos of this old district of Panama City and was intrigued by it, especially with all those skyscrapers in the background — such a stark contrast! From what you said, it sounds like it also faces similar challenges with Kota Lama. Actually, when I took photos of that Bank Mandiri building, it reminded me of some old buildings in Manila. Maybe whoever designed it was inspired by the Spanish Colonial architecture. But that’s just my guess.

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  14. Wonderful to see the revitalization in progress The Spiegel building before and after is remarkable. I noted your comment about ‘as long as there aren’t more coffee shops added.’ I suppose there are often trade offs when restoration work is done. Overall though i believe , as long as most of the authentic nature is preserved , it beats things crumbling into disrepair.

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    • I agree with you, the most important thing is the preservation of the buildings themselves. However, the owner of Spiegel herself told us that having a great variety of retail spaces will not only add to Kota Lama’s appeal, but it will also help those who actually reside within its proper.

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    • Kamu demennya uka-uka soalnya. 😀 Cintailah Spiegel apa adanya, kusam maupun bersinar. Tapi beneran deh, so far Spiegel ini salah satu tempat makan paling enak di Semarang. Makanannya enak, suasananya enak (gak terlalu intimidating, cozy, musiknya enak). Pas liat video Kota Lama kebanjiran sedih sih, dan ada satu resto di sana yang posisinya di bawah permukaan jalan. Udah pasti kebanjiran parah sih itu. 😦


      • Tapi aku sudah dua kali kzl sama Spiegel karena pesananku lama banget keluar, endingnya malah bilang run out. Yang terakhir malah cuma air minum lho, sampai aku bela2in nyeberang ke Indomaret saking udah hausnya 😦

        Tapi belum kapok ke Spiegel kok, hehehe

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hah, waduh itu kapan? Aku baru tahun kemarin pertama kali ke Spiegel, dan sejak itu kayaknya udah 5 kali ke sana karena saking puasnya. Mungkin mereka sekarang gini karena belajar dari komplain pelanggan waktu awal-awal.


  15. Your post highlights for me the complexities of competing agendas and the importance of a clear vision when it comes to revitalizing a city (or portion thereof). I’ve witnessed in my own neighbourhood, where planning for revitalization is currently underway, how complicated this is and how you’ll never please all stakeholders (of course my neighbourhood revitalization has nowhere near the challenges of Kota Lama). There has to be some give and take, but the demolition of those Dutch-era printing company buildings to add a car park is criminal. Had a giggle about at least one issue we have in common in terms of retail space. “No more coffee shops”: that came out loud and clear in our planning. Super interesting post Bama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being in charge of a place with so much historical value, challenges and potential like Kota Lama is definitely not an easy job. Of course, whoever is at the helm of it will never be able to please everyone. But I hope he/she knows how to strike a balance between sensible heritage conservation and responsible commercialization of this area, because that is the key to Kota Lama’s own survival for many years to come. It’s interesting that another place across the globe also thinks that there are only so many coffee shops an area/neighborhood can have.

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  16. Lovely post and photos… I hope the people in power will listen to the pleas for a sensible restoration. Pubs / bars shouldn’t be placed closed to religious places. There’s so much potential here. I would hate to see these “restored” in a manner that doesn’t respect the building’s history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Matt. There have been some harsh criticisms directed at the authorities regarding to the restoration of Kota Lama. Sometimes they listen, but sometimes they don’t. It’s a constant tug of war, but it’s always interesting to see another building restored to its former glory every time I visit this part of the city.

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  17. Thanks for your post and the wonderful photographs. I am so glad that the restoration of Kota Lama is progressing since my last visit and I hope they can get World Heritage status.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some of the heritage conservation experts I talked to said that the chance of Kota Lama getting that coveted World Heritage Status is slim now. However, there’s still a possibility as long as the government is committed to restoring this area based on heritage conservation principles. Thanks for reading, Ian!


  18. Pingback: Vestiges of Semarang’s Ethnic Quarters | What an Amazing World!

  19. Kalau aku harus memutar balik soal kenanganku terhadap kota lama di masa kecil dulu, maka itu sebuah area yang akan aku hindari. Karena dulu buatku area itu menyeramkan. Jangankan malam, siang aja serem. Apalagi kalau banjir (rob) sudah datang merendam jalanannya.

    Tapi Kota Lama Semarang sekarang menyenangkan, meskipun seperti dirimu bilang pada umumnya cuma dimeriahkan oleh coffee shop. Aku berangan-angan, Kota Lama ini bisa sehidup kota-kota tua di bagian Asia lainnya yang menjadi daya tarik wisata. Ada penginapan-penginapan yang beroperasi di gedung-gedung klasiknya. Dan tolong, dijauhkan dari para pengulas ‘pemburu hantu’.

    Anyway, sekarang sih kota lama dan area sekitarnya jadi tempat yang ‘punya arti khusus’ buatku hehe 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jujur aku pun dulu kalau pas ke Kota Lama pagi-pagi pas masih agak sepi gitu aku ada rasa was-was sih, terutama kalau pas lagi jalan sendiri di bagian-bagian yang sepi dan gak banyak dilewati kendaraan. Tapi ada satu memori berkesan waktu itu. Ada sekelompok anak kecil lagi duduk-duduk di area yang sekarang di dekat Jalan Garuda. Pas salah satu dari mereka lihat aku bawa kamera saku digital, dia minta difoto. Aku foto lah dia, dan aku tunjukin hasilnya. Sayangnya file foto itu sekarang entah ada di mana.

      Kota Lama sekarang sudah jauh lebih menyenangkan sih, tapi masih banyak PR yang harus dikerjakan supaya seluruh Kota Lama bisa hidup dengan beragam aktivitas dan bisnis yang sesuai. Dan aku juga senang Kota Lama dan Lawang Sewu sekarang sudah tidak diidentikkan dengan wisata uka-uka.

      Wah arti khususnya kayaknya dalem nih. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sekarang jalan malam pun di Kota Lama sudah mulai nyaman ya. Apalagi malam minggu, rame banget. Meskipun belum semua sisinya hidup sih, tapi udah lumayan banget.

        Betul, PR nya masih banyak. Dan semoga itu terus dilanjutkan, meskipun pimpinan dan pengelola daerahnya berganti.

        Hahaha you know lah 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iya, udah jauh lebih aman dibanding dulu. Setiap kali jalan di Kota Lama suka terbersit keinginan beli salah satu bangunan tua di sana buat dijadiin resto, toko buku, atau apa gitu. Cuma nabungnya entah harus berapa lama 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dan jangan lupakan mahalnya pajak bangunan-bangunan tua di Indonesia Bam. Apalagi kalau statusnya cagar budaya 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, yang di seberang diagonalnya Spiegel itu khan? Ternyata mahal juga ya harganya. Aku pikir gak bakal sampai 20 M 😀

        Belum renovasi ulangnya ya.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iyak betul, yang warna merah itu. Nah kebayang kan total biayanya bakal habis berapa? Aku sih gak kebayang. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gak kebayang juga. Trus mau dijadiin apa, biar balik modal ya? Mungkin hotel klasik gitu.

        Ngomong-ngomong ya, beberapa waktu lalu di belakang Spiegel itu ada properti yang disewakan di AirBnB. Sudah direnovasi, dan dirancang ulang kaya apartment di Eropa gitu. Cuma gak tau deh, kok gaungnya kurang kedengeran. Padahal menarik konsepnya dan bagus rancangannya.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kebetulan pas liburan Natal kemarin aku nginep di situ, Bart. Nyaman banget, layoutnya bikin betah, suasananya enak, dan lega banget space-nya. Highly recommended sih.

        Liked by 1 person

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