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Books - Travel

Exploring Karou’s Prague

July 11, 2017

“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theatre with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”

– Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I jetted off for an extremely last-minute trip to Prague. We visited for the first time last summer and completely fell in love with the city, and were both eager to return, and this time around I thought it might be a little interesting to visit a few places mentioned within one of my favourite books. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor and Prague itself are two of my greatest loves, so of course I jumped at the chance of getting lost in Karou’s city for a little while. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find Brimstone’s door, or happen upon a brooding angel with eyes like fire, but I suppose you can’t have it all!

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is one of those places that never gets old. Day or night, sun or snow, it’s always different, the view on both banks of the Vltava like something something out of a medieval engraving. On second thought, it actually does get old when it’s crammed with tourists, which is pretty much all sunlit hours for most of the year, but it’s quiet now, just a few scattered folk hurrying both ways between the rows of statues, like running a gauntlet of saints.” – Night of Cake and Puppets

Karou crossed the Charles Bridge many times during her time in Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Zuzanna set up her giant puppeteer here for her end-of-term project, and became a discarded yet amazing marionette doll performing for the hordes of tourists as Mik played his violin. Akiva also watched Zuzanna and Mik’s performance while observing Karou ahead of their very public fight in the streets of the old town, and, more importantly, it’s where everything about the past and the present clicked for him – where he realised the truth about why Brimstone gave Karou the wishbone, and who she really was. Finally, the Charles Bridge was also the setting of the fight between Akiva, Liraz and Haazel, where they exposed themselves as angels as they fought over the fate of the mysterious blue-haired girl.

“Satellites had even been tasked to surveil the Charles Bridge, in case the… visitors… returned.” – Days of Blood and Starlight

Karlova and the Old Town

There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren’t looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travellers deep into forest until they’re lost beyond hope.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Karlova is the main pedestrian route between Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, and where Kaz’s new vampire tour was located. Karou felt someone (Akiva, as it turned out) following her along Karlova, and used her knowledge of the cobbled maze to lure him out, resulting in the mid-air fight that was captured by tourists believing their flying to be part of Kaz’s vampire trickery. Karou’s apartment is also located in the Old Town, boasting a view “over the rooftops of Old Town”.

“He was perched on a rooftop in Old Town. The towers of Týn Church reared up like devil’s horns behind the row of buildings across the street, in one of which was Karou’s flat.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Jewish Quarter and Brimstone’s Door

“The plain metal door didn’t look like anything special, and in and of itself, it wasn’t. If you opened it from without, it revealed only a mildewed laundry room. But Karou didn’t open it. She knocked and waited, because when the door was opened from  within , it had the potential to lead someplace quite different.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Brimstone’s door, and the earthy entrance to Eretz, is located in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, “a medieval ghetto that had given way to a dense concentration of Art Nouveau apartment buildings as pretty as cakes.” The plain and inconspicuous doorway granted Karou access to the vestibule, Brimstone and her adopted family, and was used many times by both Karou and Kishmish on the way to one errand or another. The only time that both in internal and external doors were opened simultaneously was the day Brimstone thew Karou out into the freezing street… and that’s when she noticed the black handprint burned into it, as they were across many similar doorways across the world.

“At the same moment, though Karou didn’t know it, across the world, at every door emblazoned with the black  handprint, fires raged. They couldn’t be doused, and yet they didn’t spread.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Prague Castle

“Above it all loomed the castle on the hill, its silhouette as sharp as thorns. By night it was floodlit, bathed in eerie light.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Karou’s Old Town apartment had a view that was a direct line over the rooftops to the castle, and Zuzanna’s marionette show on the Charles Bridge had a “photo-perfect backdrop of Prague Castle on the hill”. The morning after Akiva and Karou’s confrontation in Karlova, they flew over the river and towards the castle, where they circled down toward “the cathedral at its heart” to eat their breakfast of still-warm bread.

“‘No. We’re on the cathedral,’ she said again, and he thought he was missing something, some nuance lost in language, but then he realised: She was just amazed. Amazed to be perching atop the cathedral, high on the hill above Prague with everything below her.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“The first time she’d come to Prague, she’d gotten so lost exploring these streets. She’d passed an art gallery and a few blocks later doubled back to find it, and… couldn’t. The city had swallowed it. In fact, she had never found it. There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave the impression of a map that shifted behind you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren’t looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travellers deep into forests until they’re lost beyond hope. But being lost here was a gentle adventure of marionette shops and absinthe, and the only creatures lurking around corners were Kaz and his cohorts in vampire makeup, ready with a silly thrill. Usually.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Have you read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy? Or ever visited Prague? I hope you had fun exploring Karou’s city with me!