Kota Gede, sticking to Yogyakarta at the southeastern edge, was founded in 1575 by Panembahan Senopati. It grew into a centre of trade and labour and was the capital of the principalty of Mataram, until sultan Agung moved to Kerta in 1614. Kota Gede is a maze of small streets and alleys with small silver shops and mouldy green houses with mozaic floors, once belonging to wealthy Arabic and Dutch traders.
The royal burial site of Kota Gede is half a kilometre past the market and still hold an air of past times. Two giang waringins, which should originate from the early days of Mataram, guard the entrance to the complex, which also contains a mosque, royal graves and two courts with ponds fed with a natural source.
When visiting the actual graveside, proper Jawanese dressing is obliged, you can hire them at the ticketing office. There are 81 graves, under which the one of Senopati, his parents (Ki Agent Panembahan and Nyi Ageng Panembahan) and his son (Ingkang Sinuwun Sedo Ing Krangyak). Sultan Hamengku Buwono II is buried in the Bangsal Praboyekso, the big building in the northeastern corner of the inner court. The grave of Ki Ageng Mangir (the rebellious son-in-law of Senopati) it partially inside and outside the building. Jawanese pilgrims, which mainly visit Senopati's grave, scatter flower leaves, burn incense and pray for mercy, health and fortune.
One pond is the domain of the big yellow turtle, Kyai Dudo and of schools of fishes. One of these fishes, Kyai Reges, excists - except his head and tail - only from bone. If you see this animal, you can be sure your prayers will come true. What brings luck too, is to find a nail from the original building, which burned down in 1900.
The burial site ia reachable by becak or andong from the bus station at Jalan Perintis Kemerdekaan. The road leads to the market via Jalan Pramuka and Jalan Tegalgandu, turn right when you are pass the market; the burial site is on your right at that moment.
Another reason to bring a visit to Kota Gede is because of the hundreds of silver shops each selling an unique collection of fine silver, handmade by one of the many skilled workers here. Almost every little factory (home workshop that usually is) has it's own little shop at the front of the house, along one of the small streets of the village. There are some well-known brands like HS Silver, but others do just as good without that famous name. Generally prices here are reasonably fixed for retail buyers. Prices are stated on tags. Unlike in for example Bali, prices here are in Indonesian Rupiah instead of US dollars. The products sold here are to be found in Bali's tourist area's as well, they are exported to there from Kota Gede (among others of course).
After the devastating earthquake of 27 May 2006, many of the houses - and thus home workshops and selling points - have been heavily damaged or totally collapsed. In Kota Gede you will now find a row of old houses and some empty spaces right next to it. The survivors are doing their best to cope with this tragedy, this should not lead to higher prices in general if you know how to negotiate with the people here. Be patient and stay friendly. Be aware that debris of the damaged and collapsed buildings can cause a pretty big amount of dust during dry and windy periods.