Nestled within the outstretched arms of the Holy Roman Empire, and bordered by the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary, the small but proud Kingdom of Bohemia is located within a central basin protected by surrounding mountains. The peaks are steep and heavily wooded, though few reach much higher than four thousand feet. These primeval forests, home to savage Lupine packs and territorial Gangrel coteries, enclose Bohemia’s few civilized enclaves.
Prague, the capitol of Bohemia, defies the surrounding wilderness. This city forms a center for learning, trade, architecture, religion, warfare and magic that will someday earn it the international title ‘the city of a thousand spires’ and the position as the Holy Roman Empire’s future capitol
The brooding stone city of Prague incorporates seven ancient towns. The Valtava River, a slow-flowing but very deep (the deepest portions run over one-hundred and eighty feet in depth) tributary river of the Elbe River, bisects the city and provides Prague with transportation, food—including salmon and dozens of varieties of waterfowl—and water to power the city’s grain mills. Frequent flooding tends to plague the low-lying areas of the city, much to the chagrin of its citizens. To combat this, construction of stone embankments has been an ongoing concern, intended to shield the city from yearly inundation.
The Valtava River separates Prague into seven distinct districts, each corresponding to an earlier settlement in the area and each contained in its own dark walls. Only one bridge crosses the Valtava River, but the river itself freezes over during the three coldest winter months (December through February), allowing crossings by foot or on horseback.
Following fires that devastated various parts of the city, all structures in Prague are now made of dark stone. Dank, dim hovels crowd narrow, cobblestone streets while larger dwellings huddle together in small courtyards behind imposing archways. Ponderous Romanesque architecture dominates, with curved arches and heavy gates isolating various portions of the city from one another and casting long, deep shadows across the streets by day. Although houses often incorporate sconces into their outer walls, a few torches are lit to help those who travel the city’s twisting streets by night. Dark pools of inky blackness give way to shadowy light near the castles and inns of both Old and New Towns.
Prague Castle, Castletown, the Church Quarter, and the outer portions of the Little Quarter (to the west and south) are doubly fortified against incursions by wolves, bandits, and would-be conquerors, with massive stone curtain-walls towering nearly nine stories off of the ground. Riverward, the walls are breached only at the crossings near Judith Bridge. Old Town, Upper Town, the Noble Quarter and the Jewish Quarter rest within thick stone walls reaching six stories off the ground, though just as wide and strong as those around Prague Castle, though New Town has yet to even complete it’s fortifications as of yet. Construction of the anti-flooding embankments has raised the city some three meters higher than the original Celtic settlements on which they rest.
In the small area of New Town, a new cathedral, utilizing an entirely new style of architecture called ‘Gothic’, is in the process of being painstakingly built. Its pointed arches and flying buttresses allow its spires to soar heavenward nearly sixteen unbelievable stories. The absolutely massive cathedral is the first of its kind in all of Eastern Europe, and is by far one of the largest. The style will become the city’s most recognizable features within the next few centuries, as thousands of airy spires begin to rise over top of Prague’s gloomy walls.
Prague is built upon seven hills and straddles the Valtava River like a great stone spider. Most of the city is encircled by high stone walls, including an imposing fortress on either side of the river. Judith Bridge, an arching construction of gray stone wide enough for six loaded carts to travel abreast, links one side of the city with the other. Goods coming up or down river are offloaded, then counted and taxed, then finally hoisted up over the three-meter high floodwalls for sale in Old Town’s markets. Whether climbing upward from the riverside or crossing over Judith Bridge, travelers must pass beneath the guarded entry gates, thus either entering Old Town (on the Eastern bank) or the Little Quarter (on the Western bank). Old Town lies on flatter land and her streets are generally broader than those of the Little Quarter. Gateways in Old Town lead to the mazelike streets of the Jewish Quarter, the crime-ridden cesspool that is Upper Town, the immaculate and all-inclusive neighborhoods of the Noble Quarter, and out into the unfortified, open areas of New Town. Gateways in the Little Quarter lead up the great hill to Prague Castle and Castletown, respectively, or upriver to the Church Quarter.