GENEVA TO ZURICH
Linking the diplomats of French-speaking Geneva to the bankers of German-speaking Zurich, the awe-inspiring Swiss Alpine route tunnels into the rugged heart of the country, through the stunning lake-and-mountain-choked towns of Montreux, Gstaad, Interlaken, and Lucerne. Cowbells clank while gondolas whoosh to peaks overhead as you submerge yourself in the supernaturally spotless scenery that makes this one of the great road trips of a lifetime.
The United Nations? impressive Palais des Nations (+41-22-917-4896) can be toured from April to October. Of special interest are the rooms pertaining to Dag Hammarskj?ld, the reputedly gay secretary-general who died in a plane crash in 1961. Dialogai (+41-22-906-4040), Geneva?s 26-year-old LGBT organization, holds a group dinner every Wednesday in its social Caf? Lingua, where you can practice your French and other languages with queer locals and U.N. staffers.
The northern slopes of Lake Geneva produce fine white wines made from the distinct chasselas grapes, the perfect companion to raclette or fondue. Call ahead to the tiny gay-owned winery Cave de La Muscadelle (+41-22-825-1962) and sample
wine in a room built inside an enormous barrel while drinking in the lake views.
The stylish apartments of the gay Rainbow Inn Guesthouse (+41-21-311-6969) feature huge living rooms and panoramic terraces. This is the best place to stay while sampling Lausanne?s enthusiastic gay life. Free admission to Pink Beach, the sophisticated gay sauna across the street, is included. Time your trip to coincide with one of the gay Jungle Parties (2008 dates: March 23, May 11, July 31, August 3, September 21, December 31; +41-21-340-6969) thrown at the four-story Mad nightclub with rooms ranging from Buddhist to ancient Greek. The parties attract top DJs and thousands of queers from all over Europe and beyond. Lesbians should check out the Kill Your Idols parties (2008 dates to be announced; +41-21-311-1719), which are held five times a year in an old movie theater in the heart of town. For the finest watches in Switzerland, stop by the elegant, gay-owned Junod (+41-21-312-8366) watch shop, which has been run by descendants of the same family since 1867. Junod has unique examples of Swiss brands such as Blancpain, Chopard, TAG Heuer, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and, of course, Rolex. Head upstairs to the stunning watch museum, and don?t miss the rare $20,000 Keith Haring Swatch (the gay artist was a longtime resident of Lausanne).
Freddie Mercury, the flamboyantly gay lead singer of the rock band Queen who died of AIDS complications in 1991, spent the last months of his life in his beloved Montreux. Now a lakeside statue of him attracts flocks of fans who lay flowers at his feet. They also congregate on the first weekend of September for the Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day (+41-21-966-4427) to take tours of local sites associated with him. Mercury often stayed at the mansion-like Fairmont Le Montreux Palace (+41-21-962-1212), built in 1906. Hislake-view suite (number 1721) is filled with photos of him. One of the most famous gay poets Europe ever produced, Lord Byron (1788-1824), made Montreux?s Ch?teau de Chillon (+41-21-966-8910) famous in his epic poem The Prisoner of Chillon. Walk in Byron?s footsteps in this breathtaking, towering 13th-century castle built over Lake Geneva.
Enter German-speaking Switzerland and rub elbows with the rich and famous (like queer icons Liz Taylor and Julie Andrews, not to mention King Juan Carlos of Spain) who flock to this moneyed yet hidden mountain village. Check into the celebrity-popular five-star Gstaad Palace Hotel (+41-33-748-5000), which was built in 1913 on a mountain perch with 360-degree views.
Hunky George Lazenby played James Bond in frilly tops and a kilt sans slip in 1969?s camp-tastic On Her Majesty?s Secret Service, in which he wooed the ladies in the villain Blofeld?s lair atop Schilthorn (+41-33-826-0007), one of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps. Nowadays tourists can soak in the top-of-the-world views in the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant (the world?s first), where parts of the movie were filmed. The menu includes the James Bond Breakfast: Swiss cheese, scrambled eggs, and, naturally, champagne.
Come for the perfect lake and mountain views in this ancient town; stay for the edgy nightlife at Club Alcatraz (+41-78-645-9141) in the Jailhotel L?wengraben -- which is actually a former jail converted into a hotel where you can slumber in the nicely refurbished cells. Or swing by the parties at the local gay center Uferlos (+41-78-360-1460), with its relaxed upscale bar and lounge that can accommodate up to 100.
Overlooking the city, explore the Thomas Mann Archives (+41-44-632-4045), where the fully reconstructed office of the gay German writer (Death in Venice) contains a gorgeous painting above his sofa of naked boys bathing. Once wealthy from the silk trade, Zurich is now home to out designer Andr? Stutz?s stunning Fabric Frontline shop (+41-44-241-0700), where many of Europe?s famous opera singers get decked out. Dine in the artful ambience of his Restaurant Seidenspinner next door, which features ceilings and walls made of swirled mirror shards. Restaurant Kronenhalle (+41-44-262-9900) is probably the most famous eatery in Switzerland. Patrons dine on classic Swiss and Bavarian cuisine in a wood-paneled salon dripping with original works by Chagall, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Mir? -- all of whom frequented the place along with queer glitterati such as Yves Saint Laurent and Rudolf Nureyev. During the summer, head directly to the gayest lakeside swimming area, the Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen (+41-44-422-3200), with men-only nude-sunbathing decks and gay-themed parties. Book in advance for the one-of-a-kind homosexuality in animals tour at the Zurich Zoo (+41-44-254-2533) for an up-close and personal look at the queer flamingos, penguins, and other sexually nonconforming inhabitants.
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