The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #162

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A reader writes:

Well, the minaret, the decrepit buildings, and the vaguely Alpine feel of the vegetation and topography tell me it’s probably somewhere in the mountainous regions near the Black Sea.  Since Tsarnaev was in court this week, and because I don’t have the the time or the obsessive nature to get more specific, I’ll pick Dagestan over Albania or any of the other possibles. I don’t see a free window book in my future, but maybe one day I’ll get to be one of the hilariously wrong entries at the beginning of the Tuesday post (or, dare I hope, one of the “getting closer” entries).


Minarets? Noticeably damaged structures that are nonetheless still standing? A steep hillside with a community on top of it? I’m going to guess that this is somewhere in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, which would make that community with the high ground an Israeli kibbutz.


Long-time reader, first-time submission. In the spirit of the Type 4, two things pop out immediately: mountains and minarets.  Then I spotted what looks like part of a church structure, so it’s got to be somewhere where Christianity and Islam overlap. I learned way more than I probably should know about minarets through Wikipedia and found a few that looked similar in Hungary, so I searched for cities in northern Hungary and Eger seemed to be a good fit. A quick Google Image tour of the city shows similar rooftops and a deceivingly similar yellow building as the VFYW.


Red roofs, European-style buildings, mountains, minarets … I’m going to guess it’s a view of the Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Skopje, Macedonia.  The window looks to be somewhere to the Southwest.  Beats me exactly where!


For this week’s view, I’m guessing Kruje, Albania, the site of Skanderbeg’s castle. Skanderbeg was a great military leader in the 15th century. He had an ingenious method of warning the country when the Ottoman Empire invaded: people would light a signal fire atop a mountain, and the sight of either the flames (night) or smoke (day) would warn those stationed atop other mountains to light fires in their turn, so that the news spread quickly throughout the country. Exactly like that scene in “Return of the King.” Kruje is a beautiful town well worth visiting. To be frank, on a quick search in Google images I couldn’t find that yellow building in the background, so it may be somewhere else in Albania. But I’m voting Kruje because it is fun to write the word “Skanderbeg.”


Oh man oh man! I know this one!

Maybe another reader will provide more accurate details-but what unexpected fun to know one of these. The building with the satellite dish in the middle of the picture is a wonderful tourist farm, Pr’ Betanci hosted by the friendly and helpful Marko, near the mind boggling (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) Skocjan Caves in the karst region of Slovenia. The tiny anachronistic town is called Betanja. The roofs are made of rocks to withstand the intense winds that arrive yearly. This picture seems to have been taken across the street from the tourist farm, probably at the edge of a huge drop-off which is a part of the cave system. Maybe someone’s house or apartment.

We stayed at this place a year ago May with our daughter, at the time a Peace Corp volunteer in Morocco and our son who joined us from San Francisco. We were looking for a country to meet up in that none of us had been to and that boasted great natural beauty. Slovenia did not disappoint! Amazing place. Fantastic food, wondrous hikes, gorgeous water.

Our reader follows up:

Oh man oh man, on second look I think I’m wrong. Oh well, it was super fun anyways.


Reminds me of Bosnia. Because of today’s date, I’m going with Srebrenica.


Sounds too easy just to say it must be either Bosnia or Albania, since it could easily be a Turkish town abandoned because of an oncoming water project, but I have to plunk for Bosnia and wild-guess either Mostar or Srebrenica. Wonder how close I’ve come. Never been there meself.

Mostar it is:

My instant reaction this week was, “That looks like Albania.”  Specifically, the town of Girokaster in the south of the country.  I had a moment of doubt, but then I spotted the minarets and I was convinced.  Wrong, but convinced.  It took me a while to decide it wasn’t Girokaster, or any place else in Albania  I was pretty sure it was somewhere in the Balkans though.  After some thinking and different tries I settled on Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I stopped in Mostar in June of 2000 as part of a long trip through Eastern Europe.  I rode the bus up from Dubrovnik and spent the morning there before continuing on to Sarajevo.  This was before the bridge had been rebuilt, and in fact very little damage had been repaired.  I remember two things in particular.  First how achingly beautiful everything was – the countryside really is some of the prettiest I’ve seen anywhere – and second realizing that the distinctive marks I saw everywhere in the pavement were caused by mortar strikes, which somehow brought the horror of the war home more than all of the devastated buildings and the bridge that wasn’t there any more.  In Sarajevo a number the marks had been filled in with red resin and people referred to them as Sarajevo roses.

Another goes for the correct building in Mostar:

crumblingIt is my perverse hope that I have exchanged a beautiful, sunny 80 degree day on the lake for a View From Your Window book. Something is wrong with me.

The buildings looked like Zagreb; I confirmed that the stone roofs were a Croatian sort of thing, but that didn’t make sense with the minarets. So, Herzegovina. Found white minarets and the citadel not in Sarajevo, but nearby in Mostar. At that point I was sure I found the right two white minarets, then the guard house/citadel/fortressy thing on the bridge. When I found a picture online that included the yellow building in the background, I got it.

So it’s always from a hotel, usually a small one. I got to the Motel Deny, which wasn’t quite it but left clues, so then I could search for nearby hotels. When I hit the Pansion Nur, I hit pay dirt with a picture that was virtually identical. The Pansion Nur website had other pictures that made the layout of the four room pension, and it’s relationship to nearby buildings, clear.

photo (2)Now I have agonized about the exact window, having missed it before. The angle of that rough bothers me, how we can see the back corner of it. It doesn’t seem like that’s possible from the two bigger upstairs windows. The windows on the addition farther back appear to be too low. So that tiny kitchen window, on the far right of the main building, over the door? I think so. I’m calling it: far right window of the main building, over the door.

As always, I know I am now a member of a large club, as if I could get it, a lot of other people will, too. I have no history in Herzegovina. The closest I can come is I’m half Croatian and half Sullivan, so distantly related to a former-Yugoslavian VFYW, and I was off by a floor on the Rehobeth VFYW. And I had a flamboyantly wrong but printable wrong guess once. That’s all I’ve got.

P.S. Maybe it’s the Pansion Cardak next door. Which would be a bummer.

Bummer – the correct building is in fact Pansion Cardak:

This week’s VFYW was refreshing after a number of near-impossible weeks – not too easy, not too hard. My first reaction upon seeing the photo was that it was Albania. I received an invitation to the Peace Corps in Albania last week, and the mountains and minarets looked so similar to those I’d seen while researching my soon-to-be home. Alas, as my dad says, “Close, but no tomatoes.” I should have known better, too. The Tirana contest was the first one I played (and guessed correctly), and it’s doubtful that Albania would come around so soon.

While poking around different Albanian towns, I found a blog (I can’t find it again, arggh) in which a young woman had posted photos of her travels around Albania and this week’s town, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The view is from a window at the Pansion Cardak Bed and Breakfast looking out over the town’s old bridge. The address is Jusovina br.3, Mostar 88000.

Another sends a satellite image:



This contest does a great service in expanding my knowledge of world geography and history.  Thank you for giving us all a reason to be more curious and informed! I am quite certain the view is from the Old City area of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, looking northeast from the west bank of the Neretva River toward the tower of the Old Bridge, known as Stari Most.  My best guess is that the view is taken from the second story of the Pansion Čardak guest house (map here), from this four-bed room, no doubt host to a few good pillow fights in the years since the city’s post-war reconstruction.

In my search, I learned a new word: palimpsest.  There is a tension between the need to remember and the need to forget.  Perhaps the tradition of diving off the bridge is a good way to honor both?

The 550-page nomination dossier to put the Old City of Mostar on the UNESCO World Heritage List, authored in 2005, is packed full of maps, images, and history readers may find of interest. The site made the list, with the Justification for Inscription crediting Mostar, “…as an exceptional and universal symbol of coexistence of communities from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds – has been reinforced and strengthened, underlining the unlimited efforts of human solidarity for peace and powerful co-operation in the face of overwhelming catastrophes.” In the wake of present events, from Syria to Sanford, it is a timely reminder that coexistence is an idea, and more importantly an action, we all need to work desperately to reconstruct.

My window guess: I’m not quite sure which, but I’ll go with the middle of the three:


The submitter points to the correct window:

Thank you for selecting my picture for this week’s contest! For a little more background,  the photo was taken from our room at Pansion Cardak, which I would highly recommend. Suzana, one half of the couple who own it, was as welcoming as can be. In this picture from their website, the window was the middle window on the upper floor – above the red car.

My girlfriend and I stopped over in Mostar after a few days in Sarajevo, on our way to Dubrovnik, Croatia.   It was a great transition from the relatively un-touristed Sarajevo to the cruise-passenger crush of Dubrovnik, while retaining the fascinating multi-cultural character that we really enjoyed in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Of course there’s the same troubled history that’s found everywhere in the Balkans – the most famous sight in Mostar is the Old Bridge, destroyed by besieging Bosnian Croat forces in 1993 but since reconstructed and reopened in 2004.  The city is divided into a Bosniak (Muslim) eastern side and a Bosnian Croat (Catholic) western side, and our guide said that to this day there are locals who have not crossed the former front line since the siege.

That said, the photo (particularly the building in the foreground) doesn’t do justice to the town – it was a beautiful and friendly (and inexpensive!) place to visit, and an easy day trip from Dubrovnik for those traveling along the Adriatic coast.

Two readers guessed the correct window. The first one has participated in three contests:

I have been on these streets several times in the past decade with my students and this is just a hundred-meters or so from a square that in 2005 had a fascinating collection of political graffiti,image005 ranging from the aggressively nationalist wolf of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP).

The Pansion Cardak is also only a few hundred meters from what may be the worst piece of religious architecture I have ever seen:  the bell tower of Sts. Peter and Paul Church.  It’s a variant on the region’s traditional bell towers, but done in prefab concrete and extended grotesquely out of proportion by an apparent desire to compete both with nearby minarets and with neighboring Croatia (it is allegedly 1 meter higher than the spire of Zagreb Cathedral).  My first reaction was to see it as a middle-finger extended to Mostar’s muslim population, but up close, it has the painful look of a Viagra-overdose.  (“If your artificial display of ethno-religious potency lasts longer than four hours, please consult a doctor or political scientist.”)

The second reader, however, has participated in eight contests, which serves as the tie-breaker this week:

This photo was taken from the second floor window of the Pansion Cardak Address looking northeast. You can see one of the towers of the famous Old Bridge (Stari Most) that was blown up during the Bosnia War and later rebuilt. I’ve attached a photo with the window of the pension circled that most likely was the photographer’s window:

Pansion Cardak 1