Gay Switzerland … Several Countries in One and Each Flavored Differently

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Generally one thinks of Switzerland in terms of mountains, cheese and chocolate. While this is true, one could also think of it in terms of Gay women and men. German, French and Italian yet all Swiss! Switzerland is (sort of) shaped like a football with Zurich up near Germany and Austria in the north east and Geneva down near France in the west. The Italian part with (Lugano and Lake Como … Hello George Clooney!) in the south (east) to give you the idea. Switzerland is the only country in the world with four official national languages. The fourth is a little lingo called Romanch which is an old Latin dialect still used in some areas high in the mountains. This is probably where the Swiss equivalent of Honey Boo Boo lives in her Chalet on wheels, but I digress! Whenever I am in Zurich the feeling is very German, masculine, bold and big city. Tina Turner lives in Zurich and the lifestyle is lively, trendy and the most moneyed in Europe. Luzern (Lucerne) is German as well but more quiet and homey. Berne (Bern) the capital of Switzerland is in the center of the “football” and is also German while my personal favorite, Lausanne is French. Home to the Olympic home office, Lausanne offers the Olympic Museum which is fascinating and sits on Lake Geneva where one can sit and sip a Cappuccino and contemplate the lake while Evian, (line the water) France is just across the eau, just gorgeous! Feminine, elegant and very high toned! Clooney is a resident of the Italian part with a villa on Lake Como which is just exquisite. Many rich and famous have homes here as privacy is easier to come by and the views are out of this world! All of this should be taken into consideration when planning a visit. Depending on where you go the influence could be very different. Food, language, customs will differ, all with nuances and personalities of their own. All sections are unique yet all Swiss. In our case, you will find comfortable gay acceptance in Swiss cities while depending on what is on your mind, the provincial areas may not be as welcoming. The concept of “gay-bashing” and the like are almost unheard of in Switzerland and it is interesting to me that the Swiss are well known neutral position on things political yet their attitude about same-sex relationships are very strong. All Swiss people are in favor of peace and equality. The personality of Switzerland is very multi faceted with a “take life as it comes” mentality and totally gay-friendly. The choice is that if you want things masculine and no-nonsense, stick to the German side and for a softer, elegant, feminine experience, the French. If you are into a more wild (fetish) time, visit the capital city of Berne, the “most Swiss city in Switzerland”. I once was staying in the Bellevue Palace Hotel, Berne; one of the finest hotels in Europe yet one block away was a string of transsexual, transvestite prostitutes (stunning by the way) selling their wares on the main street. No one seemed to care despite the fact that the Houses of Swiss Parliament were close by. Being my provincial, curious self, I mentioned it to the concierge at the hotel when I picked up my key. (At palatial 5 star properties in Europe one does not carry ones hotel key with them … you put your key in a slot when leaving the hotel and request it from the front desk on your return.) The concierge handed me my key and simply smiled.

One of the things I like best about Switzerland is that train travel is well organized, comfortable and like the proverbable Swiss watch, on time. I remember once having some business in Berne and only a face to face meeting would do. My suitcase was checked in to my Swiss Airlines flight in Newark and was in my room at the hotel when I checked in. (amazing!) I had my meeting, dinner and after breakfast the next day the luggage situation was reversed when I returned to Newark. Easy-peasy and I accomplished a great deal of Swiss business in about 15 hours! No wonder the Rolex is Swiss-made. They know how to organize and know about quality. Switzerland is also not inexpensive, but quality lasts long after price is forgotten! (I was in advertising once.) By the way, over fifty percent of all watches being worn/used in the world are Swiss made. The chocolate is tasty too!

Personally, was I planning to show-case Gay Switzerland for you I would ask you to pack light and I would take you, by train, all over the country with selected overnights in a variety of accommodation. Switzerland has some of the most over-the-top venues in the world. The views of the lakes and mountains can actually be breathtaking and some even life changing. Once I had a couple of days free in Switzerland so I threw some jeans in a duffle and took a train to Interlaken. (It’s situated between two lakes … get it?) While the big cities have a rhythm that is the same the world over, magical places like Interlaken seem to step out of a dream giving one a sense of romance and charm unlike anyplace else. Without the glamour of St. Moritz, Gstaad or Zermatt, Interlaken offers total escape from the sometimes frenetic feel of our “common” Earth. Idyllic landscapes and jaw-dropping views of Jungfrau (young-frow), actual clear (bluish) streams and lakes. The Grand Victoria Jungfrau Hotel and Spa, is one of the most famous and luxurious in the world. Check it out online … Gorgeous! In stark contrast to this elegant icon of Interlaken, just across the street from the hotel is a pasture complete with cows and sheep lest you forget you are in the Swiss countryside.

From Interlaken it is possible to travel, by several changes of train and cog-rail to the top of the awesome, unforgettable Jungfrau. It is the highest peak in the world that can be gotten to without a helicopter. It takes a couple of hours to reach the top but as you pull out from the flowered warmth of Interlaken’s valley, you head higher and higher as vegetation changes before your eyes. Suddenly there is snow and more snow until you reach the peak. The sun is shining, the terrain is stark rock and blinding snow squalls blow by the glass observatory windows. The effect boggles the mind. I can honestly say that this one trip/tour is on my top ten list of awesome experiences and should be on everyone’s “bucket list”. My idea of the perfect last day on Earth would be a leisurely breakfast with the “one” in the Grand Hotel Victoria Jungfrau followed by the trip to the top of the Bernese Highlands, dinner (wienerschnitzel: very thin breaded veal & spaetzle: delicate, buttered, dumplings/noodles) and then to slip into bed with cool, crisp, white sheets. One could die a happy, satisfied man. After all you almost got to heaven twice that day!

There is an aperitif commonly served in Switzerland called Cynar, derived from Artichokes. Similar to Compari but with more of a contrasting sweet/bitter taste that I find appealing. They drink it with juice (yuk) or water. I think it is tasty straight up.

Continuing on we could really choose any place from Zurich to Luzern, Lausanne to Logano and be there quickly by train. Nothing takes much longer than an Espresso and a quick nap. I really don’t know why you would do this, but once when I had some people in Berne for a couple of days, a few took the high-speed bullet-train to Paris for the day. (Very silly) However, for us, breakfast in Geneva, lunch in Basil and dinner in Zurich would be very possible. Swiss cities and towns are very small by American standards and train stations tend to be dead center. Most things worth visiting are an easy walk.

A great deal of information is available at It is the official government run website with a special section on Gay/Lesbian travel. There are also podcasts where they walk you through the gay sections of most places worth seeing. The Swiss Government Tourist Bureau is (like the trains) very efficient and works very well. They want our business, gay business and make it clear although with what might look to some as indifference. The Swiss are not as affectionate as the Italians and could be mistaken for cold and unfriendly. Like the Brit’s it is more of a reserve that is easy to break through. With the right attitude you will be kissing them Swiss style which is three times two on the left cheek and one on the right. (Weird and the Russians do the same thing)

THE BOTTOM LINE: My friends from more “passionate” countries like to tell me that Switzerland is a “Country without a soul”. Neutral, cold and too organized. My truth is quite different and I see charming people with ready smiles and a great deal of hospitality. Alphorns, clog dancing and yodeling are not my “cup of tea” but sunrise over the Alps is amazing. Roaring fires in the winter, flowered valleys and Swiss chalets in summer, fresh-faced, wholesome men and women to sleep with. Soulless my ass! When your country is as unbelievably magical as Switzerland is I suppose as a native not much else needs be said.

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