Well, I didn’t find a picture of a donkey carriage, but I did find one of a horse carriage. Apart from the animal in front, the major difference is that the horse carriages are larger than the donkey carriages. I don’t know how many donkey powers fit into a horse power, but I think horses are better suited for pulling carriages than donkeys.
The horse carriages seemed to be really popular with couples and families, but they weren’t popular at all with the drivers of regular cars. Usually, you can’t overtake them in the city because the streets are too narrow, so you have to drive behind them really slowly until either you or they take a different road. Luckily, I only needed to drive down the main street for a very short distance to reach my hotel.
My hotel was the Hotel Mijas, a relatively large four star hotel in the city. I read about hotels in Spain that the 3-star hotels are usually very poor quality and even though I only needed a place to sleep and get breakfast, I decided to get a slightly above average hotel. The hotel looked very nice, both from the outside and inside, designed as I imagine a rural Spanish villa would have looked like about a century ago. And it had free Wi-Fi in the lobby, so I could Skype home and keep publishing new photos on Secret Cologne every couple of days.
From the terrace of the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña, I enjoyed a great view over the Mediterranean Sea. Far in the distance, a thin layer of clouds was disappearing for the day and in the front, under the very long shadows of a street lamp and some trees, a bed of flowers was growing.
Every morning, when I was leaving town early, I encountered a couple of city workers who were watering the plants. If they wouldn’t get watered every day, probably not that many beautiful plants would be able to grow in that climate.
The city’s main street is a long and rather small road where you have to drive really slow. There are lots of tourists walking around during the day, and you frequently have to stop for them to cross the road or you get stuck behind a donkey carriage. Maybe I’ll post a picture of a donkey carriage tomorrow if I can find one that I like.
From the top of a building above main street, I could look just over the buildings on the other side of the street and from there straight down the mountain all the way to the sea. I know I keep going on about the view but it is something I don’t normally get to see or pay much attention to.
When driving through Mijas in the evening, looking for a place to park, I noticed this little chapel that looked like a cave on a little ledge near the center of the city. I decided to take a closer look during my morning walk.
The Chapel is called the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña and was caved into a natural rock formation by a Carmelite Monk in the 17th century. A few years later, a belfry and a room next to it were added, but built out of natural bricks outside the cave. Above the entrance, there is a statue of the Virgin de la Peña. I took a look inside, and it really did look like a chapel in a cave. And it was full of the only types of people you would expect at a historical site in rural Spain at 10 in the morning – Japanese tourists. So I skipped taking photos of the inside. Also because my camera didn’t perform well in low light situations.
Taking photos of the outside, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go ultra wide angle, use a normal lens or do a detail shot with a telephoto lens. I ended up taking all three shots so I could decide later which one I liked best. However, I still cannot decide which one I like most, they all show different aspects of the chapel in their own way. I guess I like the middle one most because it shows the statue, the old belfry and a little bit of the cave without any distractions in the frame.
For the last shot, I wanted the sun to look like it was the statue’s halo, so I had to shoot with a telephoto lens directly into the sun. This is something you should never do! Most of the optical elements inside a camera lens are magnifying glasses, perfectly tuned and adjusted to collect a large amount of light and focus it on a tiny area. When looking through the optical viewfinder of a camera, this tiny area would be your eye, which might get severely burnt or otherwise damaged.
Instead, I used my camera’s live view function. Probably not the best for the camera sensor either, but unlike my eye, it has a heat sensor and shuts down before burning up. The downside is that I can’t press the camera to my face when using live view which makes it harder to hold it perfectly steady. With a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second, this is not necessary to prevent motion blur, but I had to keep the camera perfectly aligned in the shadow of the statue’s head to avoid a bright spot next to the head as well as lens flares. It took ten attempts to finally get the photo right.
When you think about the Mediterranean Sea, you usually think about dirty water and loads of drunken British and German tourists as well as screaming children. At least that’s what my experience had been like. But if you keep a distance of a couple of kilometers, all you see is a beautiful wide plane of blue water. And when you’re a little bit up in the mountains, the climate doesn’t get so hot either.
Walking around the city in the early morning was a very calm experience. I guess most of the other people living here and the few tourists were still sleeping. Only some shop owners were opening their stores, getting their merchandise out and cleaning up a bit. The view down the mountain and over the other cities beneath was spectacular. I could look very far in either direction and in the middle, the Mediterranean Sea was stretching towards the horizon.
Even though the sun was still rising, it was already high enough in the sky to not be directly visible inside most pictures. And it still wasn’t high enough to kill all shadows or make the sky appear too bright. At home I don’t normally get the chance to take pictures in the morning hours because I’m either getting ready for work or still asleep.