The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #36


by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Wow - no landmarks to speak of here!  All we have is the ratty architecture, the rusty metal roofs, and the turquoise ocean a couple of blocks away.  Even the one tree is rather nondescript.  So it's wild guess time again.  I'm going to go with my first hunch - Belize City, Belize.

Another writes:

This is somewhere in the Barrio de Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz neighborhood), Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.  Appears to be a Third-World, crowded city (even if it's in a fast-emerging economic giant), palm tree, black mold on walls, large city on hills above the ocean.


VASP Airlines in Brazil used to have a flight that stopped in every city along Brazil's coast (and a few in the interior). You paid for the legs you wanted, it was ridiculously cheap, and the perfect thing for a poverty jet-setter like me. Once I spent a couple days in Sao Luis, Maranhao, in 2004. I was drunk the whole time, I think, so my memory isn't so good for exactly where this was. But this really looks like the historical district of Sao Luis.


I lived in Chile for two years.  The roofs look like Chiloe or other old cities, but the other building materials don't quite match up.  The decaying buildings certainly match Valparaiso, where termites devour the old wooden homes, but it could also be damage from the recent earthquake.  I could say Concepcion, but that would be too obvious, and given the obvious age I am going to guess Valdivia, Chile.


Sanya, China? This is a wild guess but I was just there last week.  There's a ton of construction going on there right now and that looks like bamboo scaffolding in the photo.  The air looks a bit too clean for China though, so I'm probably off!


Port-au-Prince, Haiti, mostly because the scaffolding and roofless houses bring to mind the earthquake of January 2010. The seaside location would fit, and so would the mouldy façades sugesting a humid tropical climate.


The red object in the sky is interesting.  At first glance, I thought it might be someone parasailing, but upon closer inspection, I think the object is tethered to one of the tall antennas.  Maybe a weather balloon?  If so, perhaps the picture is taken from near one of the Universities in the Haitian capital, where they do research on weather patterns ... Universite d'etat d'Haiti?


I have never participated in VFYW, although I track it somewhat compulsively every week.  I don’t have the time to obsess over Google Maps to find exactly the right window, so I live vicariously through those who do!  But I’ll throw out Havana, Cuba.  The once-lovely buildings now in decay to the point of collapse reminds me very much of photographs forwarded, with great sadness, by Cuban friends.


Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan? It looks like a scene from the film "White Sand of the Desert," so I'll go with the Turkmen version of Cabo. The water in the background is the Caspian Sea.


You guys are getting really good with these hard-to-figure-out photos. I have no clue to be honest. But the image reminds me of two movies: "Lord of War" and "Casino Royale". In the latter, there's a scene where Bond is chasing an international bomb-maker in Madagascar:

In Lord Of War, Nick Cage is meeting with a Charles Taylor-type thug in a city that looks like some place in Liberia. So I am leaning heavy towards a place in or around Africa.

Im going to take a guess at either Monrovia, Liberia or Freetown, Sierra Leone. Im not even going to attempt to look it up on Bing Maps or Google Earth. I doubt either website is spending much resources mapping the streets of either country.


I don't think Google Street view will be unavailable for this kind of place. The sea is blue enough to be Carribean quality but the style of the buildings is decidedly non-Latino (and anyway, that would be a repeat of last week). I'm picking the Gaza Strip because of the poverty-striken air of the place, a place of constant destruction and an imposed severe shortage of building materials. I'm picking Rafah because it is the only Gaza Strip town I can think of without looking up and also because I recently took a Google Maps arial tour while familiarizing myself with the geography of Egypt, which has been in my thoughts for obvious reasons.

I have no striking or moving anecdote, having never visited Gaza. The Palestinians I encountered in Jerusalem were almost universally kind and gentle towards me when I visited, with an openness I found amazing given that they had every right to be mistrustful.

I have previously gotten Dili, Sarajevo and Madrid right (I found the right window in the case of Madrid), so I'm hoping that eventually I'll have enough cities to make up for the lack of moving stories!


That must be Zanzibar, Tanzania.  The metal roofs, the algae-stained walls, the small glimpses of the Indian Ocean and the Pemba Channel, the TV aerials - classic Zanzibar.  Kudos to anyone that can figure where exactly it is, in that tangled mess of a stonetown. This is a place that I visit often, as an archaeologist of the ancient Swahili, the ancestors of the people that built these towns.

Correct city, but several readers were more specific. One writes:

The mouldy stucco, the rusting sheet metal roofs, the rickety awnings over the windows, the high belevedere to the left that would sit atop an interior building courtyard, the glimpse of the bright sea all speak of Zanzibar and Stone Town. My guess was confirmed with a quick search that brought up the view at Fotolia. Several years ago we spent a magical week over Xmas on Zanzibar in a small beach house of the Indian Ocean side.

One reader - and this week's winner - was just a tad more detailed:

My boyfriend and I are still competing every month to see who guesses each VFYW closest to the actual location. I was on a roll for a few weeks, but since then he's won two months in a row! It's been just about as long since I've submitted my guess to the blog, so I'm hoping this is the lucky charm I need to come out on top this month ;)  Screen shot 2011-02-08 at 12.52.47 PM

One of the things I love about VFYW is that you discover so much about the world and even find new places to add to your list of must-visit destinations. This week's was no exception. Something about the scenery and buldings made me think this was in the Middle East or Turkey. Luckily, I stumbled upon a photo of Stone Town, Zanzibar, and knew I had a great lead. It took a bit of searching, even after I found this photo (available on dozens of stock photo sites, but without a clearly identified location in Zanzibar). A search for "balcony views in Stone Town" led me to the Shangani Hotel and this view, which I'm guessing is just around the corner from this week's contest photo.

Crossing my fingers ...

You can uncross them now.