Walkthrough — Hacktoria: Geolocation 10

Note: The Hacktoria website no longer has geolocation challenges therefore all the links have been removed. This blog entry is for legacy purposes only. Free feel to give it a go by attempting to geolocate the image before reading the walkthrough. 

In this article I will explain how to solve Hacktoria’s Geolocation 10 challenge.
However, I must give a quick disclaimer first. I already knew the answer to this challenge because I am the one who took the photo and submitted the question.

Geolocation – 10

Question: What phone number would you call to be able to take this photo (do not include the country prefix in your answer).

First let us analyse the question.
There is a phone number that must be called in order to obtain access to where this photo was taken. I’m thinking restaurant, concert venue, hotel, airbnb, museum? Something that requires a booking.

Now onto the photo. We can tell whoever took this photo (me) was on the first floor based on the view. We can also quickly compare the height with the balcony across the street. A quick glance at the architecture in the distance tells us that all the buildings have 4 floors (plus ground floor) at the most. This seems to already be indicating an old European city centre. The street is too narrow for traffic and only pedestrians seem to be using it thus corroborating this theory.

The architecture style tells me it’s probably a Southern European country, perhaps Portugal, Spain or Italy.
If we do a quick reverse search using Yandex, Bing and Google we will get a mess of results; however google’s results seem to be focusing on the countries I had already suspected due to the building style with a focus on Spain, followed by France and a lonely England result.

We can now start zooming all over the image and see if we can pinpoint anything useful for further analysis.

What immediately grabs my attention is, what it looks like, a flag on a balcony across from the street. The problem with flags in non official buildings is that anyone could have put it there.
I had a neighbour with a jolly roger flag in his back garden and you don’t see me assuming they’re a pirate (or are they…?).

The “flag” is also on the floor and not hoisted anywhere so at this point it could be just a fancy towel but based on the colours and the google results there’s a very good reason to suspect this is the Spanish flag.
Now that we have narrowed it down to Spain we can narrow it even more and exclude at least the Catalonia region.

Although they are technically Spanish, they are (in general) not too happy to be part of it and having a Spanish flag around would, more likely than not, be a bad idea.

Let us take a look at something else. We can spot a bit further on a sign for something.

At this point it is hard for me to figure out what it would look like if I didn’t already know what it says. I can safely assume that you would be able to tell it says “cafe jazz” but would struggle with the word underneath so let us run with it.
If you do a reverse search using the usual suspects we get very little useful results. Yandex does a better job at trying to present relevant options and even if you add “cafe jazz” to the search you will not find the cafe sign we are looking for. This will be useful when we have found the place so we can confirm it is the right location but for now let us look at something else.

Focusing on the ground we can spot some text. We can also zoom it enough to tell that it looks like a latin language.

The last sentence seems to say “Discurso de Ingreso ?? la Real Academia Española. Jose Eche???”
If we just start with another reverse search on this cropped image we do not get any useful results but if we add the word “street” to the Yandex search we start getting something interesting. All the first results seem to be very similar to our target one and then on the fourth row suddenly we spot ours!

Clicking on it we can read it better. The last line indeed says “Discurso de ingreso en la Real Academia Española. José Echegaray”.

The link on the top right just leads us to some random quotes website which is useless but now that we know the actual sentence we can just google it.
It we put “”Discurso de ingreso en la Real Academia Española” street art” on google image search we get 3 results of what we are looking for (although 2 are the same). The first result is already telling us that its location is Madrid so let us click on it and see where it leads us.

The website seems to be a blog written in Italian. This is where my google translate chromium add-on comes in hand. I press a button and it translates the entire page for me to English. A quick scroll down the article about Madrid leads me to a photo of our quote with some more information.

The author seems to be telling us that this street art is found in the “Barrio de las letras” in Madrid. Let us google that.
The neighbourhood, according to the map in the right, is relatively small so we could just go on streetview and check it out but let us see if there is an easier way first.
We can start by clicking the first link and see if we get at least a street name.

And there’s another confirmation we’re on the right place with a wider picture below. We can also spot what could be our mysterious “cafe jazz” on the left.

Unfortunately the website does not tell us the name of the actual street but that is ok. We can just open google maps focused on the “Barrio de las letras” in Madrid and have a quick glance.

Maybe we can try searching for “cafe jazz” within the Barrio de las Letras and see if we can find it.

If you check all the cafe results within the area you will quickly find out that our “cafe jazz” does not exist. I already knew that because I chose this picture exactly for this reason. Sorry.

Let us go back to google and ask our question like a 10 year old with limited knowledge of search engines: “where is the quote of jose echegaray in madrid”.

Our first result is a link to a stock image on Shutterstock. With a bit of luck the photographer would have written in the description the name of the street so let us check it out.

And there it was, Huertas Street. Now we can finally use google streetview (if you haven’t already) and check it out a bit.
The street itself seems to be quite long so maybe we can narrow it down even more. We already know that our mysterious “cafe jazz” is gone but looking at the challenge picture we can also spot a “restaurant” on the bottom left.

Maybe that one still exists. Or maybe I was extremely cruel and chose a picture with two businesses that have already closed down. Who knows.
According to google maps there is at least 11 restaurants in Huertas Street in the Barrio de las Letras, Madrid.

Not helpful. Fine. Let us just stop being lazy and use google street view and “walk” around the street like peasants until we spot something familiar.

It was fairly simple to find the correct place and then our quote from José Echegaray on the floor.

We can tell however that the restaurant on the left is also different and not the same image we had seen on the original geolocation 10 challenge. The cafe jazz is now called “Blackbird” and seems to be a rock bar instead. The restaurant is also different and the one from the photo no longer exists. Sorry again.

So how can we confirm if we are actually looking where the previous cafe jazz was?
For that we use the (very useful) option that google has on streetview to go back in time. It’s a little clock symbol on the top left of the streetview that allows you to check out previous google street view images.

Starting from the most recent image in 2021 let’s try to go back in time until we spot our old cafe jazz friend.

Once we get to 2015 we see our “cafee populart” with the same black and white image we had searched before. Now we can be 100% sure we are on the right place.

Time to look for the location of where the photo was taken. If we “walk” just a bit further back the road using the 2015 view we can spot something interesting: a youth hostel.

So in order to answer Hacktoria’s question we need to find out the phone number we would need to call in order to book a room with access to the first floor balcony. I did not want to be too mean and the number is actually very visible just under the hostel’s name on google street view.

So now we can answer this question at last.

What phone number would you call to be able to take this photo (do not include the country prefix in your answer).
– 914295526

I hope you enjoyed this geolocation challenge. I did not want to pick a very hard one or even one that would be far too easy.

I hope that this walkthrough was informative and helpful in case you were stuck.
If you reached the same conclusion using a different method feel free to share it as I would be very happy to learn new techniques and/or tools.

Thank you for reading!

~ Sofia.

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