by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
I dated a German girl for a few years, and so spent plenty of time in various parts of Germany and Austria. The architecture from this photo is very familiar. It's clearly Bavarian. So I'm going to go with the longtime capital of the former kingdom and now Bundesland: Munich.
This one could be anywhere in southern Germany, eastern Switzerland, or Austria, from my eye. The church tower is very typical of that region and I think I’ve seen them in towns along the Donau. The square tower nearby also generally fits my hazy memory of an architectural style from that region. The buildings in the back argue for a large-ish city, and the spike tower in the far background could possibly be the needle from the 72 Olympics in Munich (or just a crane, hard to tell). How about somewhere south of Marienplatz? My wife promises me a dinner if I ever get one even close enough …
It looks like the city where they shot the last scenes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - Nordlingen, Germany?
Another reader thought the same thing. Another:
This one was deceptively difficult. It feels like this should be in Germany, but for the life of me, I can't figure it out. I've spent more time than I'd like to admit pouring over databases of high-rise buildings trying to place that angular glass building in the background. I thought the small flag in the foreground could point towards a location, and now I know more about Germanic heraldry than one person should ever have to learn (I'm now convinced the flag just decor). And with all that, I have naught but a guess: Bremen. (I know, I know, not even close...)
The picture looks very much like Sweden, although it could conceivably also be in Russia or Georgia. If I had to guess, I would say Visby, Sweden. A quick Google image search reveals quite a number of churches and other building remarkably similar to those picture.
I am going to guess Cordoba, Spain, near the river there is a fort like building in the old section of the city. The buildings in the foreground remind me of the architecture there, while the modern buildings in the far background look like they would have been built in the construction boom in recent years.
Or too much mosque on the brain. Another:
Wow, this one is obviously from Catholic East-Central Europe, but where? A million cities flew through my mind, and my gut says "Prague", but I think this is too obvious. Still, it's somewhere that has seen some strong recent economic development - those are obviously capitalist and not communist high-rise buildings in the background. I'm going to go with a dark horse and guess Vilnius, Lithuania (homeland of the ancestors on my mother's side of the family).
I believe the picture is from Riga, Latvia. My first guess was Brugges. But my husband, who has been to Brugges, shot down that idea. He insisted it was Germanic-style architecture. I noted the flat landscape, the lack of skyscrapers and the Russian-y look to the steeple. Latvia popped into my head, and I googled church steeples in Riga (the only city I know in Latvia) and found an image that looked very close.
Prague, Czech Republic? I'm pretty sure that red-and-white stripey thing off in the distance is the ikov TV tower. And the mix of old-timey and modern architecture more or less comports with the city as I remember it. Even if I'm right, I know someone else is going to be able to identify the location down to the exact GPS coordinates. Or else it's some tiny suburb on the outskirts of the city, where one of your readers lived for a year. I tell you, I continue to find this contest both exhilarating and despair-inducing.
Lisbon, Portugal. I have my reasons.
I checked the Dish from my office one afternoon not long ago and the VFYW photo showed the very building I was sitting in at the time, taken from someone's apartment window across the street. How cool is that? Why couldn't that have been the first contest photo?
Finally got one.
Although I suspect this one will be very easy and lots of people will get it and someone will get the angle/location of the shot much more precisely. At first I thought Bavaria and searched Bavaria and steeple in Google images. This yielded some similar things, but no hits. Then I tried Czech, the Slovakia ... closer. Then I gave up. But after a walk and brunch, suddenly the thought Estonia popped into my head. And there it was! St. Nicholas Church in Tallinn, Estonia.
I figured this week's contest would be relatively easy, but not this easy: the vast majority of entrants guessed Tallinn (out of about 300 total). For that reason, a map of the plotted guesses wouldn't be that interesting this week. (Plus, I'm still sorting through all the great suggestions for dynamic maps sent in by readers - thank you!). Below are some of the best entries for Tallinn. One reader writes:
At last, I've finally been to one of the featured window views! So we have St Nicholas' Church, Old City, Tallinn, Estonia. To quote the tourist blurb: "Founded by German merchant/settlers from the island of Gotland sometime around 1230, the sturdy church was designed to double as a fortress in the days before the town wall was built." The church is well known for its organ recitals - they were pumping out the tunes during my visit in '08. I could put GPS coordinates up and post pictures but hey, I'm just happy to be in the right country for a change!
The window the photograph was taken from is somewhere around 59°26'10.90"N, 24°44'26.45"E. Here is the result once I determined this location:
Thank you very much for this opportunity to dedicate a whole day of sleuthing. It was great fun! Hopefully I’ve come fairly close. Maybe one day I’ll actually get to visit the area. It looks really interesting.
The street address is Niguliste 3, 10146 Tallinn, Eesti. The Wikipedia page is here. My wife and I took a roundabout path to the answer. We instantly, though mistakenly, placed this scene in Central Europe, where we have traveled a bit. The ornate Baroque tower reminded us of that area. In the background is a bit of wall, and that inspired my wife to search Google for images of German walled cities. The first picture in her list showed the church from nearly the same angle, although much further away. (The linked site was this one.) We were shocked to find out it was in Tallinn.
I was terribly excited when I saw this photo, because my wife and I spent the last four days of our honeymoon in Tallinn, two winters ago. I'm browsing our photos, because we have a few that are nearly identical to this shot. We were there in January, when every storm creates the closest approximation you will ever see to a life-sized snow globe. Thank you for posting this!
I'm the commissioner of the "superfan" league you wrote about here. I'm sure there will be quite a few guesses of the correct answer (Tallinn, Estonia), but my girlfriend and I are confident we've nailed the exact coordinates: 56° 26' 10.77" N and 24° 44' 25.97" E. Here's the Google Earth view of the spot!
Since I last wrote, we've turned our league into a "head to head" style VFYW league, similar to fantasy football, where we have matchups each week and standings based on wins and losses. At the end of the two month season, we're doing a seeded playoffs where the top seeds have a mileage spread!
By the way, as a Latvian, it's good to see you represent the Baltics. (Side note: the most attractive people in the world come from the Baltics - true statement!)
This one is too easy for us readers of Estonian descent, of which I suspect there are many. By the way, Estonia and Estonians tend to favour your brand of principled conservatism - the government is small, sensible and low-cost. It is often recommended as a model, but only really works when the governed are also pragmatic and stoic, as Estonians tend to be.
I still have a bottle of Vana Tallinn not 5' away from me that I brought back after my 1995 visit to Estonia while on study abroad. Such a magical place with the old historic city walls still well preserved. It was like stepping back in time - I seem to remember the old historic pubs the best, don't remember much about the churches. Perhaps it was the drinks we had of Vana Tallinn with 45% alcohol that made the place seem so magical.
This took no time at all. The tower was distinct, so I knew I had a good chance. First, I latched onto the tiny flags topping the church steeple and the medieval tower. But a Google image search of church and city flags got nowhere. Then I decided (maybe foolishly) that the number of towns with a church right next to a medieval wall must be relatively finite. I googled "Churches near medieval walls." That worked. Incredible.
Jackpot on page 3 of the results, courtesy of this website. Specifically, the black and white church tower is located at 59.435922, 24.742756. It is called Tallinna Nigulste Kirik.
So! I'd found Tallinn in 15 minutes. The rest was an hour (or, uh, twice that) trying to pin down the angle to find the right window. For this, the Google Earth feature is awesome. It let me zoom through a 3D virtual Tallinn and line up the triangular building and red-and-white smokestack in the background. In my exploring I also found that under the red-topped tower is a cafe that sells pottery, called Bogapott. Bogapott has an encouraging website.
In the end, I decided the VFYW photographer (assuming he or she followed the rules and took the photo from a window) was on the second floor right here: 59.436348, 24.740658
I'll let those coordinates be my official official guess coordinates. Google doesn't really give an address for the building. The corner building (corner of Pikk Jalg and Piiskopi) may be Pikk Jalg 16. Attached is a photo looking East along the front yard of 16. To the left, you can see what is likely the VFYW foreground tree, the photographer's window out of frame.
Two final notes. First, given this technology, in 5 years we won't be able to play this game at all; it will be too easy. We'll be able to pinpoint any spot on the planet in 10 minutes. And secondly, I did all this on Saturday morning, when there were 3 or 4 decent photos of that area of Tallinn pinned to Google Maps. When I went back to Google Maps on Monday afternoon, I discovered what seemed to be dozens more photos pinned there. Meaning, I take it, that plenty of your readers uploaded their photos over the weekend.
Thanks for helping a couple of 911 dispatchers keep alert on a slow Saturday.
I usually give up on this contest after about ten minutes, but today I have a new puppy and too much time on my hands. Using Flickr and Google maps, I was able to narrow down a city with red roofs and black steeples. After a few more minutes, and after considering both St. Nicholas church and St. Olaf's as the steeple, I discovered it was actually the medieval town hall, or ratusz, in Tallinn Estonia: 10146 Tallinn, Estonia 645 7900. Apparently people used to be executed in the town square directly in front of the building.
Wow, check out this cool website:
You can see the view almost like your photo. And it's a 360 shot, one can play with it. Wonderful.
This isn't an actual entry into the contest, as I found the answer by cheating and wanted to let you know how. Using the Google Goggles app on my phone, I took a picture of the tower in this week's photo. Goggles was able to match that to another photo from Tallinn that happened to have the same tower. I went through a few other VFYW entries and wasn't able to cheat on those, but I just wanted to let you know that this sort of thing is possible.
Disclaimer: I'm an engineer at Google and I work on Goggles.
The reason I am choosing Tallinn is because the steeple and tower in the picture appear to be the same steeple and tower that were seen in another VFYW picture that you featured on August 6, 2008. Before I found this view (I have kept copies of all of your VFYW pictures), I had narrowed my guess down to England or Eastern Europe.
I'm not going to try to guess exactly what window this view came from, but I'm sure some of your other readers will (especially since I’m sure you have readers who live or have lived there, or visited the church on vacation, or had their first kiss in that very steeple, or …). I’m glad that you print some of the e-mails from people who have guessed; it is so enlightening to see the details they are picking out in order to guess the location. And no matter how many details I pick out to guess the location, your readers always pick out many more that I have not even noticed.
That's definitely Tallinn, Estonia though I may have an unfair advantage, having submitted a similar photo that was featured in August 2008.
So many inventive and accurate answers, but we have to choose one. So the winner of the free Blurb book goes to the following reader, who not only nailed one of the most difficult prior contests (Dili) but who also included an excellent window view - not too vague, not too obvious, several intuitive clues - to use for a future contest. (One of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of crafting a contest is finding suitable windows from the limited number of unused photos sent to us.) The winner writes:
Since this will be more a test of one’s ability to stand out in the crowd than a real contest to get the correct answer, I’ll start off by making this a little bit about me. [600 words later ...] So, how to distinguish myself from the many correct answers? Sadly, I probably shouldn’t use the google maps screenshot on which I marked up the field of view because that might present copyright issues. I don’t have much of a personal story about the location. Although I can say I was there, on a very pleasant warm summer day three years ago, I didn’t get married there or otherwise mark the moment in any sort of spectacular fashion, and it’s probably too late (or too expensive) to plan something between now and Tuesday.
Best I can do is send along the attached photo evidencing my visit to Estonia, as to which I can say without question I own all copyright and hereby give you full permission to use. That’s the best I can do.
Gosh, I love this contest.
This time you've selected a picture which is simply too easy. I'm betting 200 entrants get it correct. This is going to be my third correct entry (I've previously gotten correct the photos of Dili, Timor L'Este and Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina).
In the photo this week, the architecture is clearly Baltic. I've been previously to Riga, Latvia, and Vilnius and Kaunas, Lithuania, the other major Baltic cities, and I thus know it's not a view of any of them. So I presumed it must be Tallinn - which I haven't visited. All you have to go is google images of Tallin and it's clear this is a view of Tallin's old city.
Make it harder next time.
You can count on it.