The compactness of European cities, particularly ones like Prague that are situated in valleys, leads to these kinds of spectacularly vertical spaces. Each street seems to be stacked nearly on top of the next.
On the hilltops above those city streets, inside Prague Castle, the space continues to be used efficiently.
Above the castle structures, the spires of St. Vitus Cathedral continue the verticality.
The hilltop above Prague, now the site of Prague Castle, has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times. Events of enormous historic importance (like the Defenestrations of Prague) happened via windows looking out on a very similar view.
This is the picture of Prague from every postcard and stamp, and it just happened to be across the street from our hotel: the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River, with Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral rising above. The dramatic clouds made an effective backdrop for the horde of gulls winging above it all.
Perhaps it’s the excellent new Rian Johnson movie Knives Out, or perhaps it’s the new HBO adaptation of the His Dark Materials trilogy, but this case full of daggers in Prague Castle put me in mind of Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife.
There are no crenelations, gates, or moats; this is not a place to hold off an invading force. Nonetheless, the châteauesque architecture of Berkeley’s Normandy Village seems like it could fairly be called a castle, filtered through generations of repeating architectural patterns. With each generation, the style moves farther from the functional reasons for its original existence.
Mohonk’s Skytop appears as a small castle atop the hills near the hotel, but its reality is a bit more mundane: it was constructed as a watchtower for forest fires in the early twentieth century. Though no longer in use, it adds an extra hint of magic to the whole setting. The hotel (off to the left) sits on the water, and the tower touches the sky.
Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River was once an arsenal, and then a tourist destination, before it burned down in 1969 and the island was closed to the public. Now the fortified silhouette of the ruins apparently inspires an incredible amount of use as a hideout for the supernatural in fantasy fiction. Though I didn’t know it at the time I took this picture, this island is one of the major inspirations for Lev Grossman’s Brakebills College. A sunset train ride down the Hudson River is the perfect occasion to stumble on a structure like this.