This week, Dale Bechtel finds rumours of an American Montreux a little hard to believe
As if one Montreux weren't enough - with its picturesque setting on Lake Geneva, its very own medieval castle and internationally renowned jazz festival - some American developers had to go and start building a second.
If I believed a Swiss newspaper article "Montreux made in USA", this one is on Lake Tahoe in the state of Nevada. But it's called New Montreux to avoid any confusion, the German-language TagesAnzeiger reported.
The story caused a bit of a furore in (the authentic) Montreux just when the (original) jazz festival was getting into full swing. The French-language daily, 24 Heures, picked up the report and ran its own story claiming the city of jazz was being cloned, "New Montreux wants its palace, its castle and its festival!" it trumpeted.
The director of tourism in Montreux Switzerland, Chris Zobeli, had also read the articles. "Well apparently a few people from the New Montreux came over to the real Montreux and photographed everything in sight including the Chateau Chillon and the Palace Hotel, and now they're making copies based on the photographs. But they've never contacted anyone here. It was espionage!"
It costs about $5 to take a tour of the real Chateau Chillon - now a museum. The newspaper said it will cost a little more to gain entry to the "new" medieval castle. With a price tag upwards of $1.5 million for an apartment, it's clear New Montreux is a business venture.
Although word of the New Montreux has already made the rounds in Switzerland, it's apparently the best-kept secret in the Lake Tahoe region. Nobody there has heard of it, even though the Tages Anzeiger claimed construction began four years ago. Building a replica town is one thing, hiding enormous cranes and attaching silencers to drills is quite another.
The people behind the project also reportedly launched a costly television campaign across the United States to promote it. Perhaps the people living around Lake Tahoe don't watch much tv.
The name New Montreux didn't ring a bell with the woman who answered the telephone at Lake Tahoe Reservations. And the woman at the Reno Lake Tahoe tourist office was also at a loss.
M-O-N-T-R-E-U-X. I was asked to spell it for the lady at the South Lake Tahoe office "To my knowledge no, I've never heard anything like that, plus a theme park would not be viable in this area", she replied. A woman at a redevelopment office also said it had nothing to do with them.
I called Zobeli back in the real Montreux, and, as I started suspecting, still the only Montreux. He had done a little detective work of his own, "If you look at the zipcode (listed in the article) it does not belong to New Montreux but a place called Incline Village," Zobeli said.
The mystery deepened. I turned to the author of the article, a Swiss man living in Florida, a little closer to Lake Tahoe than I was, but still a few thousand kilometres east of Nevada. Yes, Claude Bühler said confidently, New Montreux was being built, but no, he admitted, he hadn't actually gone to Lake Tahoe and seen it under construction.
He wrote his story based on an interview with a certain James Reisinger, who claimed to be the mayor of New Montreux. In the article, Reisinger said: "I'd like to get to know the mayor of the Swiss Montreux and exchange experiences. It would be nice if we could be sister cities."
I would have liked to have a word with Reisinger myself, but the Swiss journalist wouldn't give me his telephone number. A day later, I received an e-mail from Bühler to say he had rung Reisinger's office but that he was out of town for a couple of days.
He promised, however, to keep me informed.
by Dale Bechtel
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