Jackson Square

while one of the most popular locations in the French Quarter, I had no idea I was looking at Jackson Square when I first saw it. it was just “off to the left” while we were waiting to taste our first beignets. it’s most prominent feature is Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans and later 7th President of the United States, rearing up on his trusty steed. it is one of four identical statues of Jackson, the other three residing in D.C., Nashville, and Jacksonville.

in the colonial period, the space between St. Patrick Cathedral and the river was the Place d’Armes/Plaza de Armas and served as a public space, military parade ground, and open-air market for the burgeoning city. it also served as a place for executions in the rowdier days of the colony, including those of the German Coast Slave Uprising of 1811.

later in the 19th century the Baroness Micaela Pontalba helped transform the square into a garden, lobbing for and financing the transformation into a park. the new design included pathways, benches, fountains, and an iron fence along the outside, with her namesake buildings facing the park from across St. Ann and St. Peter streets. the statue was dedicated in 1856, and a plaque proclaiming that “The Union Must and Shall be Preserved” added during the Civil War by Union General Benjamin Butler during the occupation of the city.

today, now that three of the adjacent streets have been made into pedestrian malls, all manner of artists, performers, and fortune and tarot readers entice tourists. during the time we were around the Square I saw perhaps a half-dozen musical performers of all varieties. while in the Presbytere, I thought the exhibition’s soundtrack had gotten turned up overwhelmingly loud … but it turned out to be the brass band in front of the building!

the view from St. Moritz

as you, my readers, might know, I usually try to fill my posts with lots of historically-relevant information about my travels. this post will focus more on the pictures.

as I’ve mentioned, Olomouc is a fantastic town. there’s lots to see and do and has a refreshingly un-touristy feel to it. one of the first places recommended to me upon reaching my hostel was the tower of the St. Moritz Cathedral (seen here). from the top, there are spectacular views of the town and surrounding area. the church was built between 1412 and 1540, and the tower up which I climbed is a remnant of a 13th century structure. my first attempt to climb the tower was thwarted by the conclusion of a funeral, complete with tubas and other appropriately somber brass instruments. later (after climbing the tower), I stepped in to see what the church looked like; I don’t recall ever being in a church during post-funeral clean-up, and it was rather interesting. women were sweeping up petals from the flower arrangements, picking up items left behind by mourners; one of the women stopped to answer her cell phone while cleaning. it was also interesting to see a thoroughly work-a-day church that’s somewhat down-at-the-heels and in need of repairs. there was even a sign out in front tracking donations to repair the roof. apparently the annual International Organ Festival is only enough to keep the organ in good repair … (the festival occurs in September every year; the Cathedral’s organ is “Moravia’s mightiest”, though I missed it by some weeks.)

the climb up the tower, while worth it, was the most terrifying climb I’ve ever made. the first portion sticks to the stone steps of the original tower, but the second part gives over to open-grate metal stairs that, while sturdy, rendered my knees quite weak. I’ve never had a particular problem with heights, but something about those stairs that nearly prevented me from mounting them. it’s rather hard to describe — something about being able to see how far it was to the level below, clinging to the exterior wall with a growing certainty that those stairs won’t hold your weight …but eventually I emerged through the flap door onto the roof. and the panoramic views were worth it.

Dolni namesti from St. Moritz,
City Hall on the left, Plague column on the right