Montreux and Vevey

Montreux and Vevey
Postcard of Montreux around 1900.

Montreux at the eastern end of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) these days is a tourist city associated with both pop culture and High Culture and, over the years, celebrities too many to mention.

For pop culture, there is a statue of Queen’s Freddie Mercury staring out over the lake (below) and Queen had a studio there. Deep Purple’s song Smoke on the Water dates back to a 1971 incident when the Montreux Casino was burnt to the ground (allegedly because a fan at a Frank Zappa concert fired a flare gun inside) and the members of Deep Purple saw the smoke billowing across the lake.

Photo: Bernd Brägelmann

For High Culture, along the lake to the north is the Montreux Palace Hotel (above), where Nabokov and his wife Vera lived in a suite from 1960 until his death in 1977. That's his statue. Stravinsky composed Rite of Spring in Montreux in 1912.

Further aound the lake to the northwest is Vevey, where Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona settled in 1952.  English actor James Mason also moved to Vevey in 1962 after shooting Kubrick’s Lolita and he is buried near Chaplin.  English novelist Graham Greene settled in Vevey late in life and is buried there too. (Audrey Hepburn is buried further west along the lake at Tolochenaz.) Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke spent his last years in a sanitorium here in Montreux, the Clinique Valmont.

To the south of Montreux, jutting out into the lake, is the historic Château de Chillon, made famous in literature by Byron’s Romantic poem, The Prisoner of Chillon (“Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!”).

Photo: Alexey M.