Snow covers the beach at Majori, the biggest in the string of towns that make up the capital's seashore. The Bay of Riga's iron-grey and as flat as a lake, and as I walk towards what I take to be the water's edge I find myself slipping on sheets of ice. An elderly couple sit with their backs to the sea, families pose for pictures beside a stone turtle, girls in fur hats slide across an ice track, a man drags a sledge over frozen water, and someone's written Honey I Love U in foot-high letters in the snow.
The beach looks like a railway station corridor, two huddled lines move in opposite directions, each keeping to the right, walking at the pace of commuters changing trains. A track as wide as a country road has been scraped out across the snow. Underfoot, the sand is as hard as tarmac.