The Time I Turned Into A Russian Grand Duchess

The vodka wasn’t the only interesting part of St. Petersburg. The Winter Palace in St.Petersburg. Photo Credit: Danielle Brundage

When you were little, what was your favorite movie?
It’s hard to look back on your childhood favorites from so many years ago. But I will always remember my favorite movie growing up (and not just because I watch it three times a year). It’s not because the heroine isn’t like the typical cartoon princess. She doesn’t even know she’s a princess…well in her case, Grand Duchess.
Have you guessed who it is yet? No?
I’ll give you some more hints. She has a really cute dog and almost jumps off a steamboat because of a dream cast on her by an evil sorcerer with the help of green demons. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! It’s Anastasia!
I had the pleasure of going to St. Petersburg for a week as a part of my study abroad program. You could say, for a week I was able to embody my favorite childhood heroine. And yes, I was able to find myself a Dimitri during my time there (but that’s a story for another day).
St. Petersburg is a strange place; while it is a Russian city, it’s considered more European in nature. However, the city itself is still as Russian as I can imagine. While there are bars in the city, there are additional bars specifically for vodka. The key is going there during the day with some pickles: you take a shot, take a bite of the pickle and suddenly the bitter taste of the vodka and your day is gone. Think I’m kidding? It’s literally how they survive winters there (not everyone, of course). The vodka wasn’t the only interesting part of St. Petersburg. The buildings and life are something you have to witness yourself to believe.
Like Anastasia, I had the opportunity of dancing around the halls of the Winter Palace. The movie did not prepare me for the hundreds of eyes watching me with worry as I did so. The Winter Palace is filled with art and wonderment; there was a whole hallway that was copied directly from the Vatican. My professor joked that, while traditional Russian art was pretty, the copies they did were even better. Another cool thing about the Winter Palace are the cats that live in the palace, protected by the government. Our tour guide said that sometimes, if the litter is big enough, they will sell the “Winter Palace kittens.”
How many palaces can say that they have their own breed of cats?
I wasn’t prepared for St. Petersburg, but that wasn’t a bad thing. If you go into different settings with expectations, they can sometimes be ruined. It was weird for me to actually be in Russia, as it’s where my family was originally from. I am the first one in my family that has been back and it’s weird to think that I could be the only one. St. Petersburg isn’t like any other city I’ve been to; the people, the places, and the culture make the place and make me want to return. Thank you St. Petersburg, for teaching me the proper way to drink vodka, and for allowing me to become Anastasia for a week.

Danielle Brundage is a senior with an English Literature major and creative writing minor. She has spent several months traveling around Scandinavia and is interested in the mythology and folklore or the world.

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