by Tasa Nugraza Barley

After spending a few days in Magelang, Central Java, I was heading back to Semarang when a friend sent me a text that would change my itinerary for the better.

He suggested that I make a stop in Wonosobo, a lovely little city about two hours from Magelang.

Knowing that I have a fascination with historic buildings and museums, he told me I had to stay at Kresna Hotel.

“You will love staying there,” he promised.

I was a bit hesitant but eventually decided to take the suggestion, driven more by curiosity than anything else.

I instantly understood what my friend was talking about as soon as I arrived at the Kresna. It was a wonderful sight to see: a beautiful and historic building standing out in the otherwise very traditional city. I was quickly convinced that the two-hour trip had been worth it.

Built in the early 1940s during the Dutch colonial era, the white hotel promises an unforgettable experience to guests. With a claim to being the first international-standard hotel in Central Java, the Kresna has been visited by some of the country’s most important people, including former President Sukarno.

Before entering the hotel, I decided to spend a few minutes exploring the exterior. Wonosobo’s iconic building has four unique triangular roofs and a grassy garden in front.

Entering the hotel for the first time, I was warmly greeted by its glamorous lobby, which transported me back to the days of Dutch colonialism.

According to its Web site, the hotel “was designed and conceptualized with a fine mixture of the colonial era and traditional Javanese style.”

While the exterior looks very European, the interior lives up to the Web site’s claim of a fusion of styles.

I could see the Dutch influence in the Kresna’s high ceilings, which were adorned with European chandeliers, and in the large doors and windows, big pillars and marble-tiled floors.

In addition to the hotel’s majestic and well-maintained architecture, I was drawn to the varied ornamentation that enhances the Kresna. Near the receptionist’s desk, for example, is an ensemble of traditional Javanese musical instruments, including a gamelan set. I wasn’t the only one in awe; I saw several foreign tourists snapping pictures of the arrangement.

Many tourists come to Wonosobo for the natural attractions, such as the Dieng Plateau, Sikidang Crater and Lake Telaga Warna.

But for those less inclined to outdoor adventuring, the Kresna offers its own aesthetic allure. You can’t ignore the paintings that decorate the hotel’s walls.

With an official name of Gallery Kresna Wonosobo Hotel, it is clear that these paintings, all produced by Indonesian artists, are a major hotel attraction. Some might even consider the art to be reason enough to lodge at this establishment. In addition to the paintings, the hotel also hosts a number of statues influenced by the colonial period.

I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere a bit longer before seeing my room, so I picked a comfortable-looking red sofa and joined a couple of other guests who also seemed to be marveling at the hotel’s interior. There are numerous sofas and wooden chairs, accompanied by marble tables, scattered about the hotel commons. There are also several wooden cabinets filled with ornaments.

Stepping into the Kresna’s main dining room, I recognized the space as another impressive feature of the hotel.

The dining area wasn’t the kind of room I was used to seeing in the capital’s modern five-star hotels. It is a beautiful space and easy to imagine as a site once used for high-minded gatherings of important Dutch officials.

Again, the European-style chandeliers are present and again paintings adorn the walls. The area is filled with exotic wooden dining tables and chairs. A large, Javanese-style partition sits in a corner of the dining room.

As I was having a good time exploring the impressive room, a waiter recommended that I look down to see the hotel’s real attraction. It turns out that the dining room still has its original floor tiles.

These aren’t any average squares that you would see tiling the floors of today’s often sterile building interiors. The eyes are struck by the small tiles’ attractive and colorful patterns.

After finally getting my fill of the hotel’s common spaces, I made it to my room and was not disappointed. Although not as exotic as the hotel’s lobby area, the room was clean and comfortable. Opening the window, I could see the hotel’s swimming pool.

Lying in bed that night, I knew that my Central Java trip was complete.

This article was previously published on The Jakarta Globe. The photo is owned by Kresna Hotel.
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