After breakfast we took a mini-bus taxi to the seaside town of Jurmala, which was another bargain at only 15 Lats. It was a sunny morning and we walked through some houses in various states of disrepair and renovation towards the beach. The houses were fascinating, mostly made of timber and in contrasting styles that suggested that the owners had had fun building them in a competitive way each determined to eclipse the efforts of their neighbours.
These were once grand seaside villas accommodating only the most wealthy Russians who used to like to come here for their summer holidays and we were relieved to see that thankfully many were being restored, rather than being demolished to make way for modern structures. The town has an official list of four hundred and fourteen historical buildings under protection, as well as three thousand five hundred wooden structures.
The last time we had seen Jurmala beach was in June sunshine when Micky claimed it for Lincolnshire by raising the County flag. Then it was a wide expanse of inviting caramel sand and gentle seashore so we were amazed to find it now covered in ice and snow. We had been told stories of a freezing sea but I don’t think we altogether believed them so to see this was truly awesome. The sea had frozen at high tide and formed into extraordinary natural ice sculptures well over a metre feet deep and topped with an inch or two of undisturbed crunchy snow.
We clambered over the ice to the sea line and even Christine got brave and released her vice like grip on Micky’s arm. The sand was frozen solid too, I imagine the sea was cold but of course no one was brave enough (or insane enough) to try it. We walked along the frozen shore and enjoyed every minute of kicking through snow and picking our way along tracks made of ice. None of us had seen a beach frozen solid before and none of us had walked on water before either.
Back off the beach we walked through more timber houses and stopped for coffee at a friendly little café with a comforting ethnic atmosphere. Here Mickey announced forty-eight hours without a cigarette and we all admired his achievement of going from a daily narcotic experience of fifty to zero in one go which I guess takes some doing even with the assistance of nicotine substitute tablets.
One of the main reasons for going to Jurmala was to visit the health spa at the Lielupe Beach Hotel again with its saunas, Jacuzzis and swimming pools and with the opportunity to have a relaxing massage. Kim, Christine and I opted for this option while Sue and Micky elected for more snow walking instead.
This was well worth the visit. We started off in a salt sauna where by rubbing salt over the body we proved that it was possible to remove about twelve layers of epidermis in under two seconds. That really did sting. The hot steam room was nice but Christine left the door open and let all of the heat out. Next was the volcanic heat of the hundred and ten degrees sauna where molten magma bubbled away menacingly in the corner of the room and the only way to combat the sizzling heat was through the liberal application of handfuls of ice down the swimming costume. The Jacuzzi was relaxing and the swimming pool had a variety of bubble bath zones and a sunken bar but no barman. Kim and Christine left me and went for a massage and I did another circuit of all of the attractions before changing and rejoining Micky and Sue.
For those going for a massage the hotel had a curious layout that required a semi-naked trek through the public areas with only an undersized towel to preserve modesty and spare blushes. Kim and Christine also had to share a lift with hotel convention guests who were as amused as they were to find themselves sharing an elevator with two scantily clad brazen English women. No design prizes for the hotel architect then!
Afterwards we walked around the town some more and then went for a late soup lunch in a cozy little café on the main street where we had Solanka soup and cheeseboard. The weather looked promisingly snowy and the latest edition of the Baltic Times confirmed this. We were certain of more snow as we took the prearranged taxi back into Riga under heavy grey skies and we went once again to the Skyline bar.
More posts about Riga…