The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #164

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A reader writes:

This truly is a guess: I believe that is the town of Shimla, in Himachal Pradesh, India. I did NO research, but I was there a couple of years ago and this kinda sorta looks like it.


I’ll say Zakopane, Poland. Because why the hell not.


I haven’t entered in a few weeks and this one is basically a wild guess but here goes. Assuming the timestamp on the photo is accurate – 5:09 AM – then we are looking at someplace pretty far north. I’d guess sunrise occurred at least a couple of hours earlier than 5 AM. I checked current sunrise times for a few places in Scandinavia. I’m going to go with Tromso, a place I visited at the age of 12, barely remember, that presently sees the sun rise at 2:05 AM (sunset at 11:35 PM).

Be advised that we take screenshots of the contest photos to make sure no metadata remains to give away the location, so the timestamp was from that screenshot. Another reader was reminded of a trip to China:

I took a bus north out of Chengdu to Zoige in 1990, and this looks just like stuff I saw along the way. I’m picking Dazhaixiang at random.


I may be way off, but this reminds me of the small town called Dilijan, which is known as the Switzerland of Armenia.


The Dutch town of Solvang, north of Santa Barbara, California?

Another emphasizes the difficultly of this week’s contest:

Not a whole heck of a lot to go on: half-timbered houses in the South German style (though they could be French, too – and who knows, perhaps in some German colony in Chile or Argentina), red tile roofs, an alpine-like setting. Hmm. The key seems to be that mountain in the middle background. But which peak is it? It looks rather like the Matterhorn, but on neither side of the Swiss-Italian border were there similar-looking houses. So, I’m just falling back on the sense that this is Bavaria somewhere, so what the heck, I’ll choose Mittenwald, Germany.

And then there are the Bavarian lookalikes:

The picture practically screams Bavaria, so obviously it was taken in Leavenworth, Washington.

Leavenworth was among the most popular guesses this week, and it’s easy to see why:


Another reader explains:

When I saw this photo I immediately thought of Leavenworth, WA, which is a little Bavarian-themed village near Wenatchee on the east side of the Cascade mountains.  The hills beyond the houses look like classic eastern Washington state terrain.  I spent two months there in 1985 camped outside of town near the Icicle River with a motley crew that included a newly released prison convict and a dude with a long white beard living in a camper on a vow of silence. On closer look I thought “nah can’t be” because it looks a little run down, but maybe this is the back side of town.  I recognized a VFYW a few months back as the Winooski River in Vermont and never acted on it because of similar doubts, and I’m not going to let that happen again.

Others guessed a different faux Bavaria:

So last week must have been too easy, so this week has no landmarks. I am going to say Helen, Georgia, a small town in White County Georgia that when faced with economic collapse turned itself into a fake Bavarian village to get tourists to show up.

Another reader who guessed Helen called the village “delightfully tacky.” Back in April, we featured a story set in Helen. It seems Bavaria has also been recreated in South America:

This is a long shot, and I can’t possibly pinpoint it to street level, but something about the Tyrolean architecture superimposed on lush green hills reminds me of one of the oddest places I’ve ever visited – Colonial Tovar, up in the mountains above Caracas, Venezuela… historically a sort of Bavarian lost colony, now a very peculiar tourist trap.

Another is on the same page, but for a more sentimental reason:

This has the look of an Alpine village, but the flora in the background doesn’t suggest Europe to me, and the visible steel beams suggest construction practices I’ve seen in Colonial Tovar, Venezuela, which was originally settled by German immigrants in the 1840s, I believe. It’s one if those rare places in Latin America where you can catch natives with blonde hair and blue or green eyes. I’ve been there several times with my beautiful Venezuelan wife, so if I’m thousands of miles off, it’s because she is in Venezuela at present, and I obviously miss her.

Another guessed even farther south:

I am going with Blumenau, Brazil because of the terra cotta roof tiles with the Bavarian style homes. If I am right, I am sure you will have a lot of correct answers.  For anyone that knows southern Brazil, this is a layup.  I hear they have great Octoberfests there – all the beer, German style; all the hooking up, Brazilian style.

Another gets us back on the right continent:

Something about the green hills, that style of roof, and the old houses reminds me of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, an old town with a castle in southern Bohemia.

Another gets closer:

Borca di Cadore, Italy. Just south of Cortina d’ampezzo. In the beautiful Dolomites. What say ye … ?

Nope. Another reader:

Does Andrew have a maniacal laugh? Because I can see him breaking it out VFYW1 7-30-13when he posted this picture, especially after such an easy one last week.

I didn’t find the specific location, so I’ll go with my gut and say it’s in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in southern France. Just to toss out a specific guess, there are a couple of buildings that look close off of Avenue du Paradis, in Loures, Hautes-Pyrenees, France.

I have a nagging suspicion I’m not in the right hemisphere. I’m looking at you, Japan.

Getting there. Another nails the right country:

I think I’ve got an answer to your contest, and it’s a part of the world that’s been in the news a lot this last week: northern Spain. Specifically, it’s the old quarter of the town of Santillana del Mar in the province of Cantabria. It makes a nice day trip if one is in the region.

Another gets much closer:

Arties, Spain? My friends and I went skiing there after a wedding in Madrid this past New Years. The architecture in all the towns of the Aran Valley is Alpine but vaguely Spanish in a way I could not put my finger on. It was also interesting to me that all the signs were in four languages (none of them English): Spanish, French, Catalan and their own particular dialect called Aranese. Beautiful place.

Another is almost there:

Based on the distinctive architecture, we’re obviously somewhere in Basque Country or Navarre along the Spanish – French border. The problem is though, with so little to go on, this week’s view could be in any of the hundreds of villages nestled into the foothills of the Pyrenees. So here’s a proximity guess: Bera, Spain.

Bingo on picking Basque, but two other readers shaved off a few more kilometers:

I would be very interested in knowing where this view from your window actually is, if it isn’t taken from Ainhoa, in the Basque province of Labord near the Spanish border of southwest France, an hour or less inland from the Atlantic and south of Baronne. My husband and I discovered this village in the middle of a field on a morning drive that had no ostensible destination, and although I’m a Creole from Louisiana I felt the strongest sense of deja vu, and was imbued with a deep sense of something lost and a longing.  If this guess is way off, I have appreciated the chance to remember the feeling.

Ainhoa is less than 15 km from where the photo was taken, and up until 10.47 am today it would have been the closest guess. But then an email arrived from VFYW Grand Champion Doug Chini:

“In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean,” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

“You put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” – George McFly, Hill Valley, California


Well, that was easy. Or not. Some timbers, a lamp and bada bing, bada boom, this week’s view comes from the lovely little town of Erratzu, Spain, about an hour outside of Pamplona. The image looks due north from a second story rear window, most likely in room #3, of the Casa Rural Etxebeltzea. The exact coordinates of the viewer’s position are as follows: 43°10’50.26″N, 1°27’22.40″W. The architecture of the buildings in the foreground was crucial in finding the location, because both are related to the traditional baserri farmhouses of the Basques. In addition to the local sites and culture, perhaps your reader was in the region to see the recently concluded festival of San Fermin?

Attached are overhead and bird’s eye views, an exterior view of the likely window, as well as another taken from inside the hotel through the same window frame.

The photo submitter tells us the view is actually from the first floor window, but they look pretty similar:

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 5.09.01 AMThe picture was taken from a room in the Etxebeltzea rural lodge house in Erratzu, Navarre, Spain. It is the building just to the north of this point in Google maps. There is only a fragmented view of the house from  Google street view as far as I can see in my mobile so I will give you a description of the position of the window: It is in the first floor, in the back of the building, looking north, and it would be the first window, from right to left, if you look at the building from the north. I hope that is clear enough.

He also lets us know why this place is important to him:

Erratzu is part of the Valley of Baztan, a place that my closest friend from childhood visited frequently for historical and genealogical research (in particular related to migration to the Americas). He felt in love with the place and at some point told his family that when he died, part of his ashes should be left there. Unfortunately we had to do this two years ago, since a brutal cancer took his life when he was only 45.

We left his ashes in the fields of Erratzu and family and friends come there from time to time to visit. The picture was taken on one of these occasions, when a group of long time friends (we were 13 and attended Sunday school together when we met, in the late seventies) visited Erratzu. We chose this house because it was one of his favourites in the area, and it is very close to the place where his ashes were left.

Since the guesses were so far flung this week, we mapped the overall spread:


This is how close our non-Grand Champion readers got:


Since Doug Chini has obviously won before, the prize this week goes to one of the two readers who guessed the next closest (Ainhoa, France – the blue pin in the map above) and who has also correctly guessed a difficult view in the past without yet winning:

I can’t decide what I find more frustrating; when I have absolutely no clue where a window is, or when I absolutely know the area but can’t for the life of me find the window itself.

It’s Basque, obviously. The painted wooden beams would be unforgettable even if I hadn’t driven through the Basque region just one month ago. I can’t tell if it’s the Spanish or French side, but purely on the basis of the lush green mountain I’m going to choose the French side, which is a tad more humid than the Spanish. Couldn’t find the window though, so I’m going to guess Ainhoa, because it seems to have more traditional Basque houses than almost anywhere and at least gave me something beautiful to look at during my hopeless Google Street View tour.

Congrats on what may have been our most difficult contest yet.