The VFYW Contest: Where Is That Window?


This photo was taken in late November. You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. Country first, then city and/or state. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts.  Be sure to email entries to, not the regular Dish account. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book. Have at it.

The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #4


A reader writes:

Somewhere tropical, reasonably developed. Not continental US. Can’t find somewhere in Hawaii with this much flat land. Phuket, Thailand?

Another writes:

Looking at the chair, it has a certain elegant South Asian feel to it. But the water has that beautiful tropical glow and the surroundings look fairly prosperous. Thus, I’m going to guess: Victoria, Seychelles.


Judging by the trees, landscape, ocean color, and river through town, I’m going to wildly guess Hoi An, Vietnam.


I’m going to guess that’s the Rock of Gibraltar out in the water, so let’s try La Linea De La Concepcion in Spain.


This one’s tough. Inactive, eroded volcanoes in background point toward somewhere in the South China Sea.  I’m taking a stab in the dark: Malaysia, the city of Georgetown.


Based on foliage, the style and condition of the buildings, and the odd looking vegetation, combined with the terrain, I’ll say Australia. Google image search, combined with combing through Australian coastal towns, leads me to believe this must be Townsville, Queensland.


This game is fun, especially for those of us who enjoy maps. Trying to match the Google satellite images of my guesses to the little clues offered here is one way I’ve attempted to answer. So, this is probably Christchurch, and more specifically, taken from the Phillipstown section of the city, looking east. Now, go ahead and tell me that I’m half a world off the mark.

Half a world. Answer after the jump:

If this isn’t my hometown, I’ll be embarrassed to misidentify it, but this looks like Honolulu, Hawaii. Specifically, the neighborhood of Kailua, overlooking the Enchanted Lakes section. If I’m right, it was the silhouette of the Mokapu peninsula in the distance that tipped me off.

About 40 out of 500 entries were Kailua. But the VFYW book has to go to the reader who divined the exact street address:

That is obviously the view from Kailua looking towards Kaneohe on Oahu, so I figure the location guess has to be pretty specific. Mahalo to the fellow with the skylights to the right for an easy landmark to look for in Google Earth for the street.

Congrats to the winner. A few readers have more on Kailua:

The water in the foreground is Enchanted Lake. The water in the background is Kailua Bay. The mountains on the left are the Ko’olau. The mountain in the far right actually looks like a sea turtle up close. The crunchy brown seed pods off the lanai are called “haole koa.” The picture was taken on a foggy day, but it’s usually much clearer there because of the trade winds.


The area is home to the Marine base at Kaneohe Bay (K-Bay, as it’s known on the base). My brother-in-law was stationed there for three years, deployed to Iraq from there, and met my beautiful sister, an island girl, in Kailua Town.


Would be great if you posted a link to last week’s winner with this week’s entry, will save your readers a lot of digging through the Dish to find it. Thanks!

You’re welcome. See you Saturday at noon.

The VFYW Contest: Winner #5


A reader writes:

Ok, so “late at night” means the city is in the far north. The building in the foreground looks French to me but the rest of the buildings look North American (and that parked car seems to be a mid-sized sedan or SUV). The river and the mountains make me think of the West Coast. But I can’t reconcile the “French” building with anywhere in western Canada. Can it be in Alaska? How the hell did it get there? So I’m going to take the plunge and say Juneau.

Another writes:

Looks like a fjord there, with European style buildings and cars, and signs of advanced industry. I guess Norway, and probably somewhere on the outskirts of Oslo.


I think the view is from Reykjavik, Iceland, though it could be from some village in Norway. Definitely Scandinavian architecture.


Oulu, Finland.  Thought process: 1) Far north, 2) Body of water in town, 3) Possible volcano nearby (no idea if I actually hit on this one), 4) Right-hand drive country (not that tough, since most are)


I’m going to say Isafjordur, Iceland. If it is, I know only because I worked on a cruise ship last summer that stopped there and I went on a great hike on the mountain in the background. If it’s not, the resemblance is pretty uncanny.


My guess is that the photo was taken in Tromso, in northern Sweden.

“Late at night” – suggests a town located above the Arctic Circle. Architecture is northern European, but generally too high-quality to be in the (former) Soviet Union. Tromso is also approximately the right size (~70,000 population) to be compatible with the urban scene in the photo. An enjoyable context for my day of rest. Thanks for the challenge.

Our pleasure. But “Tromso, Sweden” is just a tad off. Answer after the jump:

My girlfriend and I puzzled this out. The fjord landscape in the background rules out Sweden and Finland, leaving Norway. The buildings in the foreground are quite large, and suggest the center of a large town. We looked at Google Maps and Youtube videos of Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen and Tromso, of these, we thought Tromso was the most likely. We believe the picture was taken overlooking the Nerstranda Senter, possibly taken from an upper floor of the “City Living Hotel”, on the corner of Strandskillet and Gronnegata.

A handful of readers also got as specific as the street intersection. But the winner has to go to the reader with the multimedia entry:

The late-night sun was an easy tip off to look towards the Arctic Circle. The architectural mix of 19th Century neoclassical and 20th Century modern helped me zero in on Scandinavia, while the mountainous topography tilted the likelihood toward Norway over Sweden. A glance for mid-sized, Norwegian cities that far north with Google Maps finally made Tromsø a very strong contender, and a panoramic, waterfront view on the city’s German Wikipedia page confirmed it — I was even able to mark the approximate location of the photographer (Strandskillet & Grønnegata) and the angle of view on the enclosed photo:


Readers are getting too good at these.  We’ll have to crank up the difficulty a bit.

Also, a special thanks to this reader, who reveals the reason why so many readers might have guessed correctly this week:

Just a note – the exif data in the current VFYW image says “East of Tromso”, which, if the pic is from Tromso, Norway, is a pretty big giveaway. You might want to strip all exif/iptc data from your VFYW images in the future. This can be done in most image editing programs (Photoshop, etc).

The VFYW Contest: Winner #6


by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

You said you’d make it harder but *#&@ me!

We have a Jaguar XJ (appears to be right-hand drive), a European-looking white stone house and a few temperate-climate plants. So I’ll take Nicosea, Cyprus. It’s a warm country with a UK connection that drives on the left and has yellow number plates.

Is anyone else embarrassed by their desperation to solve these things? (Spend ten minutes browsing “License Plates of the World” and you might agree.)

Another writes:

An old beat up Jag.  A banana tree. A tropical, possibly fruit tree, possibly mango.  Is that papaya next to the banana?  Spanish glasswork on the doors and maybe moorish/Al-Andalus white property wall and stone arches over the windows.  Dilapidation.  Maybe Havana?


When I saw the photo it looked instantly familiar.  The vegetation, the house, the Ambassador and license plate all look like Southern India … Tamil Nadu, Chennai.  I was just there in February visiting friends.


I am currently in Chennai, South India, attending to a family emergency. The trees (including the small banana tree) are very indicative of this region. The car, however, is not Indian. The yellow license plate can indicate a foreign consul’s vehicle in India but I am going to guess the picture was taken across the Palk Strait in Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka.


Instinctively, I say the south of France (must be the foliage and the characteristic light).  The yellow license plate on the Jag may support a French locale.  The walls, the Jag, and the property expanse suggest an older wealthy area. I’m going to say St. Jean Cap Ferrat to the east of Nice.  Specifically, a neighbor to the late David Niven’s house (i.e.).


The crazy mix of wires running into the house next door reminds me of Beirut, Lebanon, where several of my aunts and uncles live. The people there were nothing if not creative in figuring out how to get electricity, phone, cable, etc., after basic services collapsed during the civil war. The architecture, vegetation, and light also seem to be consistent with Beirut.


Fascinating, Watson. Let’s start with the architecture. [160 words later…] Bottom line? I have NO FUCKING CLUE!  Gated community in Chihuahua, Mexico?


My guess is Gibraltar.  My first impression was someplace in Latin America.  Then I noticed that the Jaguar seems to have British plates.  So, I believe it is someplace with British plates, tropical foliage, and architecture that feels Spanish.  Gibraltar.


Bangalore, India. My gut instinct was Tblisi, Georgia, but the Jaguar steered me towards a former British colony. So, a guess.

Good call with a former British colony. Another:

I think the car pictured may be a Jaguar which, if so, would mean that this is probably somewhere British. But it’s not Britain. So I’ll guess that this is Bermuda and, if so, probably somewhere in the capital, Hamilton. Probably only out by 12000 miles, I know…

Only 7300 miles. Another:

I believe that the photo view is of Monrovia, Liberia, most likely in the neighborhood of Sinkor.  I was an American college exchange student in Liberia in 1983 and clearly recall glass-shards on the top of the protective walls surrounding the more affluent homes in Monrovia.  The Jaguar appears to have the orange colored Liberian car tag.  Also, the trees are consistent with the ones I remember in Liberia.

Closer. Another:

I’m going to plump for Blantyre, Malawi, which is a pretty long shot but here’s how I got there: [350 highly intuitive words later…] But to be honest I’m stumped!

But much closer. Another:

I’m going to go way out there:  Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania.  Somewhere near Stonetown.

Oh so close. Another:

Ok, I’m probably going to wind up looking silly, but here goes.

The foliage is tropical or subtropical; the banana plant could be cultivated in lots of places, but if the fern tree is filicium decipiens, it’s native to East Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.  The white stucco, recessed windows to shade the sun, worn wooden window frames, and the funky electrical wiring suggest the house was built pre-AC and possibly pre-electricity, and the municipality isn’t fussy about building codes.  The stone stringcourse and the beveled glass in the windows suggest colonial design; probably British colonial since Britons are a bigger share of your readership than Belgians, Dutch, or German (and it doesn’t look German).  The plantings aren’t lush, and the dusty car says the place has a dry season.  So I’m going with the colonial residential quarter of a former British protectorate in East Africa where expats live now.  The orange/yellow license plate with black letters is similar to one that says is in current use in Tanzania; Kenya and Uganda have different plates.

Is the house on the Msasani Peninsula, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania?

Yes!  Congrats to the winner and the four other readers who guessed correctly (out of about 300 entries). Perhaps we’ll ease up on the next one. Tune in Saturday.

By the way, I recently came across this random bit of reporting:

[NYT crossword editor Will Shortz] does puzzles in other publications (he likes the cryptic crossword in Harper’s, the USA Today crossword not so much). For kicks, he’ll read The Huffington Post or Andrew Sullivan online.

Might he be a fan of our pictorial puzzle?

The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #7


A reader writes:

Okay, now you guys are just being spiteful.

Another writes:

At this rate, next week we will see the view of an alley from a basement flat.


Okay – I’m gonna look foolish, since some specialist in the genus arecaceae will know just what palm trees those are and some ex-pat car enthusiast will ID the car based on the window shape (and then know in which country the preponderance of cars are white) and some devoted Dish reader will be reminded of the vacation they took the week after they finished their year in the Peace Corps and …

I’m feeling a bit unqualified here. But I will hazard a guess based on: window tape indicating a recent storm and “UN” visible on car equaling the presence of a UN affiliated agency. So my guess is Belize, Belmopan, specifically 7 Constitution Drive (which is the offices of UNDP in Belize where hurricane Alex recently came ashore). It’s worth a shot!


Given the only obvious clue – the UN vehicle – I assume this location must have a large UN mission. Along with the African-looking vegetation, I’m going to guess Monrovia, Liberia.


The UN currently has 14 active deployments around the world in as many countries (Central African Republic – Chad – Congo – Côte d’Ivoire – Cyprus – East Timor –
Golan Heights – Haiti – Kosovo – Lebanon – Liberia – Sudan – Syria – Western Sahara).

The presence of palm trees indicates a tropical, subtropical or warm temperate climate. The white flowers are either from a Bougainvillea vine tree or from a Wisteria vine tree, but most likely the former. These are found usually in great numbers in former British colonies and the Caribbean islands. That leaves us with Cyprus and Haiti. The wrought iron wall with its metal gate is typical of Port-au-Prince. This picture was taken most probably in the Pétionville commune where a large number of diplomats and foreign workers reside.


Please don’t let these puzzles devolve to tests of the Botany PhD I don’t have.


As I was googling UN cars, I realized that most of them are painted with a different UN logo. The closest logo to the one in the picture belonged to a Ivory Coast UN car, so that’s my guess. To narrow it further within its capital, Abidjan, I’ll guess the area of Cocody.


The UN vehicle is labeled in black, which usually means it belongs to a political or peacemaking office rather than to one of the humanitarian agencies, which use blue. Second, the garden fence looks pretty minimally secured. This doesn’t look to be a place with a high crime rate or endemic violence, which rules out quite a few more possible locations, leaving – by my methods – Cyprus and East Timor (otherwise known as Timor-Leste). Let’s say Cyprus and see what happens.


Hot climate. What looks like security fencing. And a white UN vehicle parked outside. That all suggests Gaza City.


The U.N. car and vegetation have me focused on two places: Congo or East Timor. I suppose a U.N. car could be anywhere it wanted to, and not just in a place with a current peacekeeping operation, but I have to cling to something. It’s scandalous in 2010 that a Google search for “trees in kinshasa” only turns up two hits. (At the very least, there must be a band with that name currently playing a rec center somewhere.) But the trees “feel” more like Kinshasa, so I’ll go with that.


The two clues I guess are the UN vehicle outside the gate, and the OPEN gate itself. So this mean strong UN presence but low security situation, which will rule out Haiti, PNG, most of African countries. Difficult to say but my gut feeling tells me Timor Leste or Sri Lanka … I’ll go for Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Hey, I have an idea. Why not make the next VFYW an inner patio? Seriously, I get the feeling this is harder each week. The only saving grace is that having a UN police car narrows the field considerably, along with the apparent tropical climate. I’m going to guess Dili, East Timor. How many continents was I off?

None!  About two dozen readers correctly guessed Dili.  But the first was David A. (Congrats, we will get you a book ASAP.)  Everyone else tune in Saturday for the next contest.

The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #8


Readers are starting to get scary-good at this game. One writes:

Alright you bastard. This is the first one that looked familiar to me but only in a general way. I can’t make out any specific clues, even when zooming in Photoshop. Sicily is as close as I can get. I can’t see as how anyone gets closer than that, even using Google Maps/Google Earth as has been done previously.

Another writes:

The cobblestone courtyard indicates it’s not North America and the 1728 (or 1723?) inscription on the fountain indicates it’s probably not South America either. Also, there’s that peaked roof in the background.  That’s French (well, there’s a neighborhood like that in Long Beach, CA, but that’s not Long Beach).  So it feels southern French to us, because of the tile roofs. Something Provencal.  It’s not Corsica, as the mountain in the distance isn’t big enough.  My wife and I are going with Marseilles.


Not many clues to go on here. 1728? Nothing much happened according to Wikipedia. I’m not an expert but the blue car looks like a Peugeot, suggesting perhaps a French-speaking country. The pointy building behind the corrugated roof is reminiscent of central Europe. It also appears to be rather mountainous. So I’m going to guess St. Etienne, France.


This one isn’t as easy as last week’s.  I lean towards Europe, though the cloud cover seems to indicate it is not Mediterranean like I would have liked to guess.  The mountain in the background indicates a rough terrain, perhaps the Basque region?  I glanced into any 1728 references of Basques, and came up with possibly Spain, specifically Azpeitia – maybe the Sanctuary of Loyola?


I think this is a view from inside the University of Havana, Cuba, overlooking a fountain commemorating its founding in 1728.  (I looked up other 1728 establishments, but somehow I don’t think this one is the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Uppsala.)


Western Europe for sure, but the architecture looks wrong for UK/Ireland. Also quite certain it’s not Benulux, Scandinavia, Iberia or anywhere near the Alps … which leaves us the big three.  It doesn’t look dry or semi-tropical enough for Italy or southern France. The parking sign is definitely not a German one, and the license plate seems to be yellow (also not German).  So, best guess: Sedan, France.


I recognize many aspects as familiar but I couldn’t place the location … then I saw the pattern of the paving tiles!

I lived for 5 years or so in Northern Germany, as a street musician. I sat on, stood on, and stared at this exact pattern of paving the whole fucking time. I even took a photo of the pattern to use as a background for the back cover of a CD I produced. Does it help me? Not likely. It’s Germany, I’m sure of – the tall roofed house, the street sign and lamp, the masonry – but even then these styles are common throughout that part of Europe. Hmmm. I’ve spent far too long on this already so I’m going with Hildesheim.


Not a lot of internet research or anything, but this looks an awfully lot like a little Plaza that I wandered into when I was exploring Cusco, in Peru.


The stonework and window treatments suggest a Venetian influence.  The tile and mountains make me think Croatia.  Could this be the old town in Korcula?


This jumped out at me as looking a lot like where I took my honeymoon – Porto, Portugal.   I actually looked at my pictures from the Porto Se Cathedral, but could not confirm that this was it.  I was going to try Google Images, but that sorta takes the sport out of the contest, no?


Just a guess here since I don’t have the time to do the satellite analysis. The fountain looks typically Swiss, as do the mountains in the background. It all seems to be facing east, so I’m guessing Neuchatel.  I happen to be living in Switzerland right now, so I am probably biased towards seeing Switzerland everywhere.


Salzburg, Austria? The cobblestone pattern, courtyard aesthetic, date on the parkitecture, and solidity of the buildings walls suggest Europe – the orderly painted parking lines urge me toward the north.  The restoration of the building evident suggests perhaps a rebuilt German city.  But the yellow paint from where the photo was taken reminds me of the Salzburg.  And while the distant relief seems perhaps too low and the turquoise roof tops that are also distinctive in that city are absent, I’m sticking to my initial guess.  And since your obsessive readership will no doubt nail this down to the precise GPS latitude and longitude, I’ll guess somewhere near Mozart’s home on the western bank of the river in the hopes of being close enough.


This photo was taken in Lausanne, Switzerland, from a building overlooking Rue Cité-Devant at approximately 2/3 of the way from the Cathédrale to the Château Saint-Maire.  The view looks westerly past the Gymnase de la Cité toward the Palais de Rumine and the Place de la Riponne.  Coordinates approximately 46° 31’25.85 N, 6° 38’07.79 E.

Correct! Another reader was even more impressive:

This one was tough to crack, but there are bunch of clues that help narrow it down. First, the combination of an obviously European landscape, the yellow road paint, style of cobbles, white license plates on the car, design of the speed limit sign and lamppost all suggest Switzerland; the architecture (both close-up and in the distance) and roof tiles further narrow it down to the French-speaking part.

Definitely not Geneva: I live there and there isn’t anywhere that looks like that. The angle and length of the shadows suggests that the photographer is facing somewhere between West and North – which would make it likely that the hills in the background are the Jura mountains, which rules out Neuchatel. Basel and Bern don’t have the right topography in their old towns to get the landscape, and Yverdon is too flat.

Which leaves Lausanne. The fact the photographer wasn’t facing South was a bit of a head-scratcher for a while. Nevertheless, with a little help from Google maps, it’s possible to pinpoint the exact location: it’s taken from a West-facing first floor window (2nd floor in U.S. terminology) at the Amis de la Cité building on Rue Cité-Devant 11bis, Lausanne. Google map here.

More impressive still:

I found a photo of the window from which the picture is taken:

View of the 'view from your window' window

Another ups the ante forevermore:

I am an Australian living in Switzerland and have enjoyed your blog for several years. My family has been enjoying the VFYW contest and we were delighted to see one in our part of the world.  The architecture was clearly Swiss Vaudois, the mountains looked more like the Jura than the Alps, the height of the city made it most likely Lausanne, and the street looked like it was in the lanes behind the Cathedral.  So it was a good excuse to take my visiting parents for a Sunday drive and go VFYW hunting. Sure enough we had guessed correctly and found the fountain:

Parents Visit_969

Thanks for a fun afternoon.

Thanks to you!  Despite these impressive feats of Dishness – and 11 correct guesses in all – we just have to award the photo book to this couple (how could you not?):

It’s Lausanne, Switzerland! Just today I was walking there with my wife. It’s on a road called Rue Cité-Devant, which goes from the back of the beautiful Cathedral up to the Castle. Really a must-see. It’s a picture taken from Rue Cité Devant #12 it would seem. The mountains in the back are the Jura mountains.

I knew I wanted to marry my wife when she and I stopped at that very fountain for a sip of water last year!

I love this contest!