The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #91


A reader writes:

I can tell it's a tropical climate with palm trees and other tropical plants.  Since you mentioned it was a small country, I will go with Guam, since that's the smallest one I've ever been to.  And since Hagatna is the capital, and the largest city, that's my guess.

Another writes:

The only real clue we could find in the photo was there was a license plate on the black car on the bottom of the picture.  It is a long and narrow plate with green on the bottom.  After looking up different plates online, we ruled out Central and South America since most of the plates are more US style rectangles.  Looking then at Asian and Pacific Island plates, we came across the Philippines plate that could be this plate. Since we know very little about places in the Philippines, I looked up where any US military personnel are stationed in the Philippines and came up with Zamboanga City. Thus my guess is Zamboanga City.


No idea where it is, but my girlfriend said Philippines, so I am guessing a small country near there, Brunei.  My second guess would be Palau.  I did enjoy looking up small countries and small islands on Wikipedia though. Can't wait for a VFYW from Mauritius. Hmmm, maybe it's from Mauritius …


Dense, urban, tropical; typical cast-iron windowframes with single panes; plenty of mold on the buildings with older walls, cars with shaded parking spots. I've seen this a million times in Mauritius during a decade of working there off and on. Mauritius is a fascinating blend of cultures and people – but also hideously over-crowded: around 1.3 million people live on an island about 50×40 km in size. And, of course, around one million tourists  make it here every year. I vastly prefer the solitude and peace of the Balck River Gorges National Park.

Ok, back to the view: Most likely somewhere central on the island; the low hills in the background without a view to the rugged mountains on the island suggest the region around Curepipe, looking southeast. Probably from an office window; area doesn't look residential, and is way too far away from the beach to be a hotel. But given the typical low clouds and rain in the air, it could just as well be from around Quatre Bornes or Vacoas/Phoenix (mmm, Phoenix beer, mmm).


Excellent!  The nondescript landscape and architecture means that your world traveler readers will have to earn it like us hacks! 

The foliage points to a tropical or warm temperate climate, of course.  The car in the foreground appears to be an Opel Astra, which is sold primarily in Europe, perhaps also the Caribbean and Latin America.  The pickup next to it appears to be a ubiquitous Toyota, but the view through the front left side window apparently does not show a steering wheel, so that means it's a country where they drive on the left.  The Opel's license plate is white, which at least eliminates several Caribbean islands and brings us down to Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Malta, and Cyprus.  The urban density does not look like the Caribbean, so I'll go with the Mediterranean.  With the deadline nearing, I'll guess St Julians, since it has trees which are otherwise scarce in Malta.

Another throws a curve ball:

Everything about the picture has the look of the Twin Cities. But which one, Minneapolis or St. Paul? The twin cab pickup was the giveaway – it has to be St. Paul. Googling "tin roof" and "St. Paul" led me to this image of the Anchor Bank, which has to be the green building shown in the image. Simple trigonometry led me to the Town House Bar & Piano Lounge at 1415 University Avenue West, where I note that Esme Rodriguez performed on Sequin Sunday, February 19, no doubt the date the photograph was taken. So that’s it. I’ll be watching for my book.

Another reader:

I am guessing Yaren, Nauru. I lived on islands in the Equatorial Pacific (Kosrae and Palau) for a while during the 1990s. The topography of the location in this photograph looks a lot like the topography of Kosrae, which is only a few hundred miles from Nauru.

I never visited Nauru, but am aware that it is a "high" island (i.e., not an atoll) with predominantly overcast weather. There's no view of the ocean in this photo, but everything about this picture is evidence to me of a hot and humid tropical island. The car ports suggest a very hot place. The plants and clouds suggest a very humid place. Many of the automobiles in this part of the Pacific are imported second-hand after they have been used for a while in Japan. I can't tell from the photograph, but I would guess that the steering wheels are on the right side of the automobiles, just like in Japan. 

There are very few five-story buildings in the Pacific. From my travels in the region, I've never seen these particular buildings. It would have to be a country that is, or was at one time, quite wealthy. Because Nauru went through its boom/bust phosphate mining history, I suspect these buildings were built during the boom in the 1970s and 1980s. The window from which this photograph was taken looks a lot like the windows in low-end hotels and government buildings on islands all over the Pacific. (I would guess that the wall surrounding the window is constructed of cinderblock.)

Finally, you said this photo depicts a view in a small country. Other than the Vatican, Nauru has the smallest population of any country on earth. And the land mass is among the smallest, too.

Another gets warm:

Kigali, Rwanda is tropical and hilly, which is as much as I can gather from the photo.  The low cloud cover also reminds me of the dry season (the Kasimbo) in and around Luanda, Angola – approximately the same latitude.  It looks like it should rain, but it doesn't for about four months.

Another nails it:

I think this week's photo is in Mbabane, Swaziland.  This was a tough picture, since there are not really any distinguishing landmarks.  However, the vegetation is semi-tropical and the license plate on the black car in the foreground looks like a Swaziland plate (with pale green hills across the bottom), and Swaziland certainly qualifies as a small country.

Another Mbabane entry:

Screen shot 2012-02-28 at 11.52.22 AM

This is my first entry in the contest, but I’ve been looking at the VFYW and trying to figure them out (with some successes) for some time. For this view, I started by identifying that the license plate on the car is from Swaziland (based on the shape and the green color along the bottom), then began looking through aerials of the larger cities the country. I came across a photo that showed the tall building off to the left in the background, which helped me zero into the area and direction that VFYW photo was taken. I believe the picture is looking south-southeast and was taken from the hotel/apartment complex (couldn’t determine the name) located off of Smuts Street, near the corner of Somhlolo Road, Western Distributor, and Gwamile Street in Mbabane, Swaziland (see attached aerial).

The winner this week is the reader who answered Mbabane with the most precision:

Prior to this morning, I was pretty sure I was the only one reading the Dish from Swaziland every day. That picture's taken from the second floor of the (now former) AON Insurance building in the MTN Office park overlooking downtown Mbabane. The pink building in the upper right corner is the Mbabane Government Hospital, and the gray building just to the left of it partially obscured by the trees is the National Referral Laboratory, both of which are central to the country's response to the HIV crisis. You'd never know it by looking around here – the road and electricity infrastructure is astonishingly good and suggests a relatively prosperous country – but the country's 25%+ rate of HIV infection is the worst in the world per capita and poor health has devastated much of the economy over the last decade.  More than 40% of pregnant women are HIV-positive.  Fortunately, despite challenges like these, the government continues to commit resources to increasing the number of patients receiving life-saving HIV treatment, and the legions of people working to improve conditions seem to be having an impact.

For what it's worth, the picture of downtown Mbabane hardly captures the feel of this country.  The attached picture is much more aligned with what I think of when I tell people about what Swaziland is like:


Details from the submitter:

The view is from my company's (Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation) new office location – it's located right next to Price Waterhouse Coopers in Mbabane and about two blocks from our old office location, which is at MTN Office Park, Karl Grant Street. The new location (and the view) basically overlooks the old location and is off to the left side of the old location (in that view).