“If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux” (Freddie Mercury)
The natural beauty of Switzerland lures Ruth and I to frequently visit it on our European vacations. With the inviting presence of endless Alps hiking routes interspersed with quaint Swiss villages, crystal clear lakes, and cow sprinkled pastures, we imagine Switzerland as a fairy tale dream. Our most recent visit to the pristine shorelines of Lake Geneva flanked by inviting hillside vineyards and the towering Jura mountains in September, 2018 thus bode well for us as a similarly uplifting experience.
On this particular day, we decided to visit Montreux by slow train on a cool and sunny weekday. Strolling through town on foot, we intended to examine the artistic legacy here of Freddie Mercury, of Queen’s rock music fame. Descending from the Central Gare Station through downtown along a steep walk to the popular lakeside promenade, we first paused to view the famous statue of Freddie. His crowd-pleasing, musical presence situated prominently along the lake soon resonated a deeper meaning of creative artistic expression emanating from this exquisitely beautiful place. Feel Freddie’s flair for seeing Montreux in his own inspired way in the following video. You might sense a poem in his lyrics an impressive art piece or one of his magical music performances.
Click on Freddie’s Montreux link below.
Moving uptown away from the shoreline in further search of Freddie Mercury’s enduring musical legacy in Montreux, we then toured “Queen, The Studio Experience Exhibition, at the elegant downtown casino. From 1978 through Freddie’s death in 1991, Mountain Studios functioned as the epicenter of Queen’s musical production. Here, Queen produced seven record albums including their fifteenth and final one, “Made in Heaven.” Our tour of this legendary place would now yield a firsthand look at a young man of musical genius surrounded by the excesses of rock star fame. His handwritten musical lyrics, priceless photos/album covers and graffiti-like, wall dedications from adoring fans provided a solid testament of his iconic artistic brilliance.
When Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis in 1987, He sought more peace and quiet in his life at Montreux. He then spent more time at his nearby lakeside home, relaxing outdoors. For a legendary rock star used to the wildly raucous “grind” of world tours, my observations about one of his writings at this casino museum visit clearly suggested that in these painful moments of his life, Montreux’s natural environs provided him with a greater “peace of mind.”
Other reminders of Montreux’s rich legacy to spur rich artistic accomplishment surfaced on a second day visit by car. Chillon Castle stood prominently along the lake where Lord Byron’s felt inspired to compose his epic poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon”. Our short visit here thus provided chilling irony that within this castle’s stony walls along a beautiful lake, enslaved victims were once cruelly imprisoned for innocently opposing the religious dogma of the Protestant Reformation.
Moving out toward the suburbs of Montreux, two additional sites of of artistic interest caught our interest. The “avant-garde” design of famed French architect Le Corbusier provided breathtaking, open air vistas of Lake Geneva at his home, “ Via Lac Le Corbusier”. The winding drive to Charlie Chaplin World in the the vineyard – filled hills above Montreux also provided a breathtaking overlook of the serene lakeside below. How enlightening it seemed then to relive the humor- filled artistry of this legendary, silent movie actor near his home and special place of refuge.
In early July each year, Montreux buzzes with endless musical creativity for three days at its renowned jazz festival My wife and I on several occasions in the past have listened to unforgettable live performance there in ticketed indoor venues of popular bands of jazz/rock interest. We have also enjoyed many smaller scale performances performed for free as we settled into French Riviera relaxation along this beautiful, lakeside shoreline. If you plan to visit Switzerland in the future, I thus urge you take time to enjoy the unique magic of Montreux’s landscape artistry as described in this blog.