After a train ride and plenty of new adventures, we made it through our first day in Saint Petersburg. I loved traveling in this city, even just walking along the streets and looking at all the architecture felt magical. For me, Saint Petersburg was also marked by how much beautiful art I got to see in so many different forms. We started our second day in Saint Petersburg split up into different groups based on different options for places to visit. These included Grand Maket Russia, a model museum of different regions of Russia, Kunstkamera, an anthropology museum founded by Peter the Great, and the Museum of Anna Akhmatova, a museum dedicated to the Russian poet of the same name (which was what I chose). After spending time and learning in these places, we all joined together to explore the Hermitage.
The State Hermitage Museum is the second-largest art museum in the world and was formerly the Winter Palace of Russian emperors. Similar to seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral for the first time, seeing the Hermitage in person also felt very surreal and I was taken aback by its beauty and size inside and out. Because of the massive size of the Hermitage, everyone had to do research beforehand in order to have a plan of what they wanted to see. This was important because not only is there so much to see, but the Hermitage is also split up into different buildings so it’s important to know which building has the art that you’re looking for. The museum is broken up into different sections of countries that the artists or art originated, so it was somewhat easy to navigate.
Because I am interested in Russian history, I wanted to focus more on seeing former parts of the palace and other historical works depicting Russian emperors. The architecture of the palace was beautiful, with giant crystal chandeliers and scarcely a room that didn’t have gold throughout in some way. There was also a long corridor with portraits of famous Russian emperors such as Catherine the Great, and other members of the Romanov dynasty. One of my friends from the study abroad cohort and I spent most of our time exploring the extravagant rooms and taking pictures with portraits of the prominent Russian figures while trying to mirror their poses. After experiencing a lot of Russian culture through art, I moved to the General Staff Building, another building part of the Hermitage museum. The General Staff Building holds many beautiful paintings from famous artists like Vincent Van Gough and Claude Monet; some were very well known works and others were ones I had never seen before.
After conquering the Hermitage, we all met back up at our hostel to rest or get ready before seeing Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Before leaving for Russia, if someone were to ask me to list what I was most excited about for the trip, seeing the Russian ballet was definitely high on my list. Something seemed so special to me about all of us getting dressed up to go to the theatre together to see something that people spend so much time working on and perfecting. Swan Lake, through its four acts, was absolutely beautiful. The music and choreography working together were very moving and definitely lived up to my expectations of what going to a prominent ballet would be like. By the time it reached the final bow, I was amazed at the talent and beauty I had the opportunity to witness. After grabbing our coats from the coat check, we all headed back to the hostel for some free time to rest or discuss the events of the day.
Following the ballet, the study abroad students and the study abroad staff members also had a meeting after receiving news about the COVID-19 situation in Lithuania. We all received an email from LCC President, Marlene Wall about how the coronavirus situation would affect classes at LCC moving forward and which also somewhat encouraged students to go home where they would be safer and with family. This was not completely surprising for us as a few students were already advised to come home by their home universities. However, it was still shocking to believe that soon our trip, the people we met, the things we learned, and the memories we made, would be coming to an end. Even though this news was very sad for all of us, especially after a very emotional meeting with our study abroad leaders, we all decided that we would still make the most of the rest of our time in Russia and focus on the good times we had.
After a few more days in Saint Petersburg exploring Catherine’s Palace and seeing more of the city on our own, we had our long train ride back to Lithuania. During this time we spend lots of time together. One of my fellow study abroad students, Fiona Milmoe, also got notebooks and had a great idea for us to all write letters about our favorite memories with and nice things about each person. I loved this idea and I think it demonstrated how even though we were very sad that not only the Russia trip but also our time in Lithuania would be ending, we could still focus on the positive memories and cherish the remaining time we had together.