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A reader writes:

Surely this week’s charming view has delighted and engaged many people. Who would not want to spend time in a place where the sun is shining, people are enjoying themselves, and even the dogs know they’re in the right place! This is one of the most beguiling scenes you have ever shown.

I think this is a picture from Portofino, Italy. The blue cross is typical of certain pharmacies in Europe. The mixture of old and new in the architecture of the buildings, the stone terrace wall, the cobblestone streets, and the delightful color schemes, led me to think Italy would be a reasonable choice. How I narrowed it down to Portofino: Sheer dumb luck. Elsewhere on the net this weekend was a feature showing wonderful hotel getaways. Among them was a picture of Portofino that was so reminiscent, in so many respects, of your contest photo this week that I could not resist sending in an entry.

Another:

Probably wrong, but I’m going with Prague, Czech Republic. That’s what it reminds me of, but I was there long ago, and pretty drunk most of the time.

Another:

Looks like Karst formations to me. Minor googling got me to somewhere between Trieste and eastern Slovenia. I’ll go for Trieste and leave the exact location to those with better google skills or more local knowledge.

Another:

Split, Croatia. End of guess.

Another:

This is my very first entry. The view is suspiciously evocative of Heidelberg, Germany, with the photo having likely been taken from one of the arches at the Old Bridge Gate over the Neckar River. I returned to the city earlier this summer, having first spent a few short hours there several years ago, and confirmed my belief that Old Town Heidelberg is one of the most beautifully lush, quaint, and dare I say dreamy locations I have personally visited. The view from atop the hill at the end of Philosophers’ Way is especially spectacular. Even if my answer is wrong – which I hope it isn’t – the thrill of recognition when I first saw the photo on your blog has already made my morning.

Another is less delighted:

OK, this is infuriating. I was initially positive that this was Petřin Hill, Prague, Czech Republic. What else could it be? I reasoned. The Habsburg yellow building in the foreground. The tourists blocking the street in standard clueless fashion. (Mostly kidding, tourists! Don’t stop going to Prague! The economy needs you and the Praguers would be left with nothing to complain about!) the Malá Strana cobblestones. Had to be.

But that wall, dammit. It’s not the Hunger Wall, and i don’t remember other walls up on Petřin. Could be a shot of the Dripping Garden wall in the Valdštejnský palac, but from where, I have no idea. And I don’t think that tram stop sign is the right shape, either. I suspect this is going to keep me awake at night and I may need to write you again to dispel the angst.

Another gets on the right track:

This image reminds me a lot of the Offshore Portugal areas of Madeira and Azores. I am going to go ahead and guess that this picture was taken in Funchal in Madeira.

Another nails the right location – but with some real effort:

This one was brutal.

At first sight, there wasn’t anything to give it away. The mixed architecture didn’t offer any obvious clues and pointed in all sorts of directions. All that was certain was that this is Europe. But then what?

The somewhat weathered state of some walls and roofs suggested a warmer, more humid climate – but apparently not warm enough for people to shed their coats. Altitude, perhaps? I spent a good amount of time looking at obscure medieval towns nestled on hillsides in Slovenia, Northern Italy and Hungary. To no avail. It also didn’t help that what looked like a blue cross in the photo is actually a green one – either way, pharmacies are a dime a dozen.

Looking up added to the confusion. Half of Europe sits at the foot of some form of castle, fortress or palace. This was getting more difficult by the minute. And then there was that van. That flashy green-red van. Red-green. Red-green? RED-GREEN! Exactly. But I didn’t get it either.

What set me on the right path was good old Google (in German). Old town. Hillside. Merlons. In that order. Three pages into results, I found nearly the same view. This photo shows part of the old town of Sintra, Portugal. The picture was taken from inside the eastern end of the entrance arcade to the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, which served as one of Portugal’s royal palaces from the 15th through the 19th century. Here’s a Wikipedia picture with the photographer’s location in the red circle:

sintra

The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated less then 20 miles west of Lisbon, this looks like a lovely place to visit.

Another agrees:

If you’ve never been to Sintra, it is well worth a visit. Once you get away from the crowded, narrow streets in the town itself, the Pena Park is incredibly peaceful. My only tip is that you avoid the humidity of late August – trekking up the hills to the Pena National Palace, which nestles in the mountains overlooking the town, becomes pretty unpleasant in 100 degree weather!

Another points to another palace:

I think this is the first VFYW where I’ve actually been to, so I recognized it immediately. The view is taken from the Palacio Nacional de Sintra in Portugal. To be honest, where this photo was taken was pretty much as far as I got into the palace; we ended up skipping past the bus tours of people and heading up the hill to the other castles and palaces in the area. The most memorable was the Quinta da Regaleira, with its gothic architecture and network of tunnels extending below the property:

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It’s hard to overstate the excess.

Another reader:

I grew up not too far and went to visit the town and its palaces many times with my parents, but I still find new things when I go visit. If anyone goes there, go see the toy museum around the corner from where the photo was taken, go have a travesseiro (a particular pastry) at the Periquita café, go up the mountain to the Disney-like Palácio da Pena or go explore the terraces and caves of the Quinta da Regaleira, full of Romantic symbolisms. Or just wander around through the town and the mountain and enjoy the splendid views.

A word of warning, though: the area between the town of Sintra and Lisbon is heavily overbuilt, so if you take the train directly from Lisbon, close your eyes until you get to the last stop.

Another:

The closest we have ever come to death was walking along the side walls of nearby Castelo dos Mouros (blasting wind, thick fog, no guardrails). I went there in 2006 with my best friend. I can guarantee you will have at least 30 winning entries with this one (too easy).

Actually closer to 100 readers correctly answered Sintra. Five of them have correctly guessed difficult views in the past without yet winning, but one of them clearly stands out as having participated in a whopping 55 contests over the years, so he breaks the tie this week:

This week’s contest only took a few minutes to solve once I noticed a tiny detail:

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That’s no moon, it’s a spa … I mean, that’s no mountaintop, it’s a castle. Crank up the trusty search engines, and after a handful of misfires, “mountain top castle” did it. The title of one photo I found is “Moorish Castle-Sintra”:

Moorish castle-Sintra

So we’re looking at a castle above Sintra, Portugal, meaning we are IN Sintra. Given the layout of the foreground of the contest photo, there’s only one option for the location, and that’s the Sintra National Palace. There are four large arches on the front of the palace, but given the location of the little fence in front, we are looking out of the left-most arch, or the right-most if you’re facing the building.

That was a particularly fun one. See you next week.

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