The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #241


This, of course, is our final Window View contest. In some ways, I think of this feature as pure Dishness. It began with my desire to let readers know just how amazing and global the full readership is – something that is crystal clear in the in-tray but not necessarily to every Dish reader. I foolishly suggested that readers send in a simple view from their window to give a sense of who the readers are. It prompted an avalanche which, back in the day, I had to figure out how to frame and present on my own. At one point, I begged for mercy. But you wouldn’t let the feature die. As a complement to the rush of news and ideas, it was perhaps our most perfect and simplest creation. See how it all started here.

And then I had the idea, inspired by a reader email, of putting the details of the picture – the place and time – after the jump, just as a tease to see if readers might amuse themselves by guessing. That soon became the contest, which was then transformed, deepened and finessed over the years by the curating genius of Chris Bodenner and then the Special Teams savvy of Chas Danner and Chris as a team. Read more about the history of the feature here:

You can discover a few amazing contest-related coincidences here and here (even today’s view had a happy accident). In due course, VFYWC imitators started popping up all over the web, including the NYT myplacewashdc206pmand CNN. Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones built a zoomable VFYW game, which likely inspired the Google Maps version, GeoGuessr. Pete Warden created an interactive map and rotatable globe of window views. Data-cruncher Jay Pinho analyzed the feature in the depth. We marked our 100th contest by recognizing two grand champions, Mike Palmer and his teammate Yoko. But the undisputed all-time champ is, of course, Doug Chini. His tips for winning the contest are here.

We’re so proud of it – a true collaboration between readers and editors and the world. I could never have happened without the web. And it is, in some ways, Dishness at its purest.

But on to the final mystery. A reader writes:

We’re in México – specifically in el Distrito Federal (D.F.), several blocks from “El Angel de Independencia.” ¡Viva México!

¡Nope! Another:

I’ve done no searching at all to back up my gut reaction, but this looks very much like the view I had one day a few years ago while waiting out a long layover between trains at Union Station. Chicago architecture has always comforted me. I was a heartbroken undergrad traveling as cheaply as I was able in the middle of winter. I took refuge on the top floor of that library, reading magazines and watching the sun pass over the carved stone.

Thanks a million for everything over the years, Andrew and team. I’m going to miss the Dish very, very, very much.

We’ll meet again. Another reader gets us to the right continent:

Dublin, Ireland. No research, just a stab in the dark. Something about the congested buildings and the light rail barely visible in the twilight below. Thanks for all the years of this great contest!

And all the years of gently letting down readers like this one:

Jo napot kivanok (“good morning” in Hungarian). At last, I think I have this one. This is a view of the southeast corner of the Hungarian Opera House in Budapest. In the background is the spire on top of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

This rookie nails the right country:

Florence, Italy. First time entry and I am only entering because I saw the symbol in a video game, which I had up in another tab.

Another is more succinct: “Pizzeria + Tram = Italy.” A reader for the first time gets the correct city:

So every VFYW contest I sit there and marvel at the speed with which people narrow things down, while I sit there wondering “where the hell would I even start??”  This week was the first time I actually felt a glimmer of hope.

Pizzeria sign, cobbled streets … hmm, would it be too easy to guess Italy?  Then there’s that cathedral spire.  A quick Google search brings up a match with the Duomo di Milano, so there we go! From there it got a lot more tedious, and my resolve failed me. I’m just proud to have gotten Milan. (Boy do I hope it is actually Milan …)

It’s actually Milan. Another former lurker gets the correct hotel:

I have been a subscriber for two years now (and I was a reader for a few years before that, through your existence under various media umbrellas). I have been an avid follower of the VFYWC – but more as a diligent reader of every single entry you post as the results on Tuesday. In terms of guessing the view, I had thus far satisfied myself with trying to cursorily guess the city/country and moving on. I never had the patience to go through the entire contest – except once when I was happy that I got the city of Buenos Aires right and submitted an entry. Still, VFYWC has been a regular feature every week in my life, and I’ve always marveled at the ease with which my fellow readers zeroed in on a location. But something changed this week – perhaps the announcement that you are winding down? For once, I wanted to get at least the satisfaction of submitting one proper entry.

So this being my first, diligent attempt, I spent some time every day approaching the problem – kind of like preparing for an exam or an important presentation! I finally got it Tuesday morning, just in time … phew. The view is from Una Hotel Maison, 4 Giuseppe Manzini, Milan, Italy. Specifically, it’s from the top most floor, 3rd window from right when facing the hotel entrance:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.59.58 PM

I first concentrated on the statue in the background of the photograph – and zeroed in on La Madonnina on top of the Duomo in Milan. From there it was a matter of drawing lines on Google maps and working towards identifying the pizza place and some quality time with Google Street View and Tripadvisor to get the physical address and angle of the photo.

Hope I’m close.

Nailed it, to the cross. A former winner writes:

I haven’t been feeling well enough in the weeks since finally winning to devote any real effort to the contest, and though I feel worse today than I have in weeks, I felt that on the horrible chance that this week is the last chance for me to see “a former winner writes” that I should put in a worthy effort. It’s immediately obvious that the only real effort this week will come in tracking down the specific window, as the iconic Madonnina of the Duomo gives away the game.

This collage kicks ass:

Milan Italy 2.001

Veni, vidi, vici. Thought t’would be hard, but twasn’t. Thought I’d be banging my head over European architectural styles for a few hours, but then who knew that the tiny distant tree topper above and behind the stately edifice in the foreground would turn out to be so recognizable once spotted. Search for “cathedral spire” (since that’s obviously what it is) in Google images and her images pop right up: Santa Maria Nascente atop Il Duomo di Milano. Identifying the hotel as UNA Maison Milano, via Giuseppe Massini 4 then is just that much more cake. The window is no more than a guess, though: top floor, 4th from the right?

I’ll miss the VFYW contest (almost as much as I’ll miss the Dish itself) and have looked forward to it every week since it began as an ingenious adaptation on the daily view feature. But if all good things must come to an end then that must apply to great things too, and The Dish has been great.

And here is our collage from the nearly 200 entries we received this week:


No one was happier for this week’s clues than this former winner:

I started with one that got me nowhere. “Oh, good”, I thought, “a distinctive streetcar”. Unfortunately, it was also distinctive for Milan and would never lead me there. On the left is the red streetcar that is visible when the view is lightened up. It’s red with a narrowed nose. On the right are just some of the myriad of different style and color trams of Milan. None are close.


So, then, I focused on the statue on the steeple. I sensed we were in Italy, so a confined search and I soon landed on the Madonnina at the Duomo di Milano. Here she is:

madonnina comp

From the direction the statue is facing, I looked for what could be found nearby just to the south. The one good clue was the pizzeria sign. It’s never a bad idea to search for a nearby pizzeria. The Dogana. Mmm.

PastedGraphic-5 copy

Streetview shows us the view in better light:

streetview milan

If you look closer, you can see the tram behind the pizzeria:

close up streetview w tram

So, where was the picture taken? A reverse view from the other end of the street shows the Sir Edward Hotel at Via Mazzini 4:

hotel from other street

I couldn’t find a good picture of the hotel except via Streetview. Here it is, with the my best guess for the window from where the picture was taken, on the top floor:

sir edward hotel

Here is the VFYW, annotated with what I found:

composite milan

I had so much fun playing this week and love this contest. I am sure all of the regular players will play this week, we will all win, and we will all hope that we will have many future chances to play our much loved VFYW contest. If not, thanks for the opportunity to do a deep dive into a remote spot of the world each week.

Diving deeper into Milan:

Even though this was a fairly easy contest, it has given me quite a lot of pleasure – mainly because now I really want to be there!  If I could afford to stay in this hotel, it would be even better.

Milan is such a historic city.  St. Augustine was famously baptized here (probably at a partially extant baptistery located at the site of the present Duomo) in 387 by St. Ambrose. As a testament to the antiquity of Christianity in the region, Milan has its own distinctive liturgical practice (predating attempts at unifying European liturgy that began around the eighth to ninth century and which continued on through the Counter Reformation period and beyond). For example, there are six weeks in Advent in the traditional Milanese liturgy and no Ash Wednesday. Also the Milanese church has its own (very old) traditional music, the so-called “Ambrosian chant” distinct from the “Gregorian” performed mostly elsewhere in Western Europe.  Speaking of music, many well-known musical compositions have been premiered in Milan (by such composers as Rossini, Verdi and Puccini), often at the famous La Scala opera house, only a few minutes walk away from this particular location.

Some day I hope I can make it there!

Many already have, of course:

I’ve been to Milano on my “Another Damn Cathedral” (ADC) tours in the late ’70s, but this one doesn’t belong on the list.  It’s one of the best, and the climb to the sloping roof with its views of the spires and the city scape is outstanding.  It is so good that I even returned in the mid-90s with my wife – counter to my personal travel motto, “we don’t go back” (which drives her crazy – she’s a fan of reprises).  But my point stands.  I have clear memories of my first visit even though it was about 37 years ago, while I can barely remember one thing from 1994.  We needed a knife to cut some hard cheese for lunch (we were traveling by bike, but had stashed our gear at a Left Luggage) and so I pilfered one from a self-serve cafeteria, then felt guilty enough that I actually brought it back when we were done.

Our trivia master takes us to school yet again, nailing the right room:

The Dish might honor a Beard of the Week, but the Milan Cathedral hosts a Spire of the Month feature.  Although currently placing only fourth on the Cathedral’s list of most beloved (a/k/a hottest) spire statutes, this month’s winner is the spire of St. Marius (a/ka/ St. Mario).  One of the best things about the VFYW contest is that you end up finding out about some truly interesting yet worthless shit.

For what I fear might be the last VFYW contest, we are in Milan, Italy.  The two huge clues -the church spire and the tram – quickly led to Milan and the hotel UNA Maison Milano at Via Mazzini 4 – 20123, Milan, Italy.

Searching spires, steeples and towers usually turns up too many leads to review efficiently.  So the hunt began with the tram.  Googling “orange tram Europe” first took me towards and then away from Milan.  After finally realizing that the tram was pointing away from the window, it became clear that this tram was a Fiat Ferroviaria Series 4900 (photo gallery here).  This picture in particular confirmed that the rear of the Series 4900 matched the tram in the contest picture.  Because only the Azienda Trasporti Milanesi operates the Series 4900, it took but a few seconds to determine the spire with its Madonnia statue soars above the Milan Cathedral.  Finding the Duomo stop for lines 3 and 24 along via Dogana was easy using a Milan tram map and by backing up from the Cathedral in the direction the Madonnia faces.  The stop is between the neon sign for Ristorante Pizzeria Dogana seen in the contest photo and Museum of Twentieth Century art (Museo del Novecento) at the far end of the street.

Finding the contest window took much longer than finding the UNA Maison Milano. It looks like the contest picture comes from the hotel’s Madonnina Suite (shown here) on the top floor.  The suite seems to be an additional room added above the original red tiled roof.  The window is highlighted:


We really appreciate how many of our contest veterans came out of the woodwork this week:

As usual, my wife and I worked together on the contest. Our guess is that the photograph was taken in Milan, Italy. We did not identify the address, but we have included a picture that shows the building from which we believe the contest photograph was taken. Our guess as to the window is circled:

Milan another reverse view (with window)

It has been a long time since we last sent in a VFYW entry. Now that we are worried the contest may be coming to a close, we decided to try to solve this week’s contest for old-time’s-sake.

My wife gets credit for this one: I slept in on Saturday, and she had it narrowed down to Milan before I got up. The pizzeria and the architecture brought her focus to northern Italy, and she identified the gothic spire as being on the Duomo di Milano. From there we settled on the building that served as the photographer’s vantage point, and our best guess as to the window.

We hope the VFYW contest (and the rest of the Dish) find a way to live on. Thanks for hosting the contest!

Our GIF-guesser pulls out all the stops this week:

Some of my best work:


Awesome. Our contest poet:

I ponder the photo with logic so pure.
The Dish lives till Tuesday! Of this much I’m sure.
The Madonna presides and guides – only fitting,
speshly if this is our last contest sitting.

The cities and mountains and hamlets we’ve seen!
Surely the homes of nice human beans.
Such beauty reflected in faraway eyes.
By golly …. I’m growing, empathy-wise.

So heartfelt thanks to Sully and Crew,
for all that we’ve seen, and may yet see too!

Another reader sends a song:

In case this is the last contest, thanks for the challenge and the fun. Or the challenging fun. Or the fun challenges. You get what I mean. I’ll leave it with a loose translation of the song of the “Oh Mi Bela Madonnina,” the unofficial city anthem of Milan:

Oh my beautiful Madonnina, who shines from far away,
All golden and minute, you rule over Milan,
At your feet life is lived, there’s no twiddling of one’s thumbs,
Everybody sings “away from Naples one dies” but then they come to Milan.

Here’s Team Facebook:


Below is another team effort – examples of which have become more and more common over the past five years:

This Milan contest was our Saturday night. I had dinner with a few friends from law school whose conversations about Iraq, Hillary, and gay marriage back then often revolved around what Andrew had written. I’d said I’d win one of these one day, and now we realize the time is nigh. Regardless of what the future holds for The Dish, know that you all have made a huge impact on the intellectual and cultural development of my little group of friends. Here we are working on one last VFYW at midnight:


A family team effort:

On the eve of my grandmother’s funeral, our family had a lovely and lively multigenerational dinner and discussion around how we read, how we communicate and how we share information. My son just got his first smart phone; my daughter only uses an iPad instead of textbooks for school; my stepbrother is a voice reader for Audible. My just-shy-of-97 grandmother sent typewritten letters well into her final decade, often prompted by a newspaper article with the clipping stuffed inside the envelope.

That same night I learned you were ending the Dish. I shared a few lines of your justification with my father who cheered at the notion of spending time in one’s own thoughts and reading slowly and deeply. I bemoaned the loss of my VFYW challenges. Just after Thursday’s funeral my wife flew up to New York. The next morning she texted a photo from a Manhattan window to each of us: “View out a Window. Where am I?” In two minutes I had easily located the window from The Strand.

I will miss my weekend VFYW contest, but you have launched a new family game to supplant it and sparked another form of communication. Thank you.

Emails like that don’t get any better. On to this week’s winner: she has been playing the contest since the beginning and finally takes the prize with her 55th entry:

VFYW_Milan-Madonnina overlay

I’m so sad right now – I feel like this is it, the final VFYWC. Now I’m never going to win this damn contest! At least this week’s view is giving everyone a chance to play.

I immediately recognized the Madonnina on the Duomo di Milano. With the sun setting, you can tell that the view is West of the cathedral – from the Una Maison Milano. Everyone on Trip Advisor keeps talking about how great the views are from room 751, the penthouse. So I’m going with that.

Scored at the buzzer.

This week’s view comes from another long-time reader:

It’s been a week of mixed emotions for me – first getting my Brunei picture published (I thought the obscurity of the location would sway you), then Andrew’s announcement, and finally my Milan picture as this week’s contest. Wow.

I know you’ve been getting tons of mail in response to Andrew’s announcement, so I will keep this part of my email short: please continue! I’ve been reading the Dish since its days with The Atlantic and I was an early subscriber when the Dish went independent. As a German who has lived in the US more or less for the last 13 years, the Dish has played an enormously important role for me in helping me understand politics, policies, society, and discourse in my new homeland. Please keep it going.

Now for the photo: I will never forget the hotel room this photo was taken from. It is the weirdest room I’ve ever stayed in, weird in a good way though. The Hotel Una Maison in Milan has six floors. Our room was on the 7th floor. There’s an extra door on the 6th floor that opens directly into a tiny elevator. The elevator barely holds two people, goes up one floor, and opens directly into Room 751. The room itself is a tiny triangular addition on the roof of the old building. As a result, the room has windows along all three walls with an amazing view over the rooftops of central Milan. The famous “duomo” is right around the corner from the hotel – in my submission you can see its top with the golden angel statue peak above the roofline of the building on the left – probably one of the few good clues in the picture. I snapped it as soon as we walked into the room; it was evening, it had just stopped raining, and the lighting was beautiful and almost surreal. It’s hard to remember where exactly I took the photo, but I’m pretty sure I took it from the first window on the left in this interior shot:


Our two-night stop in Milan was the last on a short, beautiful, and very relaxing trip with my wife through northern Italy last July. My parents where watching our two boys in my small hometown in the Black Forest of southern Germany, and my wife and I enjoyed every second of our first child-free vacation in over 4 years.

Meanwhile, one of our best players writes:

I’m still feeling disappointed about last week’s contest. Some time ago Doug Chini said something about his white whale – a view he had not been able to guess. Well, my own white whale is … Chini himself. I’ve always dreamt to beat him – just one time, only once – in a particularly difficult contest. Well, what happens when a particularly difficult contest finally arrives, and Chini is unable (apparently, at least) to guess it? It happens that I am busy working with an impending deadline and have very little time for the game, so when I have just begun to check the Eastern European capital cities, the time is out.

Ok, probably I would have not found the exact location – nobody else managed to guess it, after all – but still one wonders …

Our final entry after 241 weekly contests goes to who else but the legendary Chini, back after a rare and mysterious one-week hiatus:

VFYW Milano Bird's Eye Marked - Copy

”Chill for a minute, Doug E. Fresh said Silence!”
– The Abstract

And at the end of all our journeys, we’ve returned to the, uh, country … my, er, family started from. This week’s view comes from Milano, Italia. The picture was taken last summer from the 7th floor penthouse of the Una Maison Milano, room #751, and looks almost exactly due east along a heading of 89.0456349 degrees. Trust me. ;)

As a few of you noticed, I missed last week’s scandal in Bohemia, partially because I’m an idiot and partially because I’d just finished my own meta-contest the week before: getting every view right for an entire year (51 contests in 52 weeks; the staff takes off Christmas week). As proof of the unbelievably epic accomplishment, he wrote, channeling Archer’s self absorption, I’ve attached a high-res collage which includes every image I sent in for those contests along with a wee pic of my crazy self:

VFYW Doug Chini 5151 in 52 Collage - Copy

More seriously, as this may be one of the last contests, it’s time to answer the question folks keep asking that didn’t come up in my AMA: why do you do this, you nerd? What’s the lure, why spend all that time on the elliptical hammering away on your phone looking for some obscure detail about air conditioning in Romania?

The answer is, it’s simply the purest, most challenging, most enjoyable liberal arts test I can imagine: here’s a picture, now find where it was taken. No rules, no limits; just your brains and your ability to apply your knowledge of the sciences and humanities as creatively as possible. Astronomy, geography, history, architecture, botany, you name it, at some point they’ve all come into play. That’s what’s kept me coming back all these years, and hopefully will for a while longer, especially if the Dish or the contest somehow survive Sully’s retirement. But if not, well there’s only one thing to say to the Dish team and all the readers out there. So long, and thanks for all the views!

P.S. We’re not really gonna end this whole Dish thing, right? Where else are we supposed to hide from Clinton-Bush VIII: Even Police Academy Never Got this Far?

In a subsequent email, he adds: “I’m definitely not hanging up my yellow circles; so long as there’s a window contest, I’ll be mixing it up with the rest of the nutters, whether’s it’s for another week or 10 years.”

Although the blog is ending on Friday, we have some ideas for resurrecting the Window Contest in the future. We have your email addresses, so you’ll be the first to know. And again, this has been one of the most dynamic and enjoyable features to emerge from our readership, and a community within our community. What a pleasure it’s been. Thank you.

(Archive: Text|Gallery)