Rossiniére Switzerland is now my new favorite place in all of Europe, perhaps in all of the world. Located on the French speaking side of the country, Rossinére is one of those picture-postcard perfect Swiss villages, home to fewer than 550 people in the Vaud canton near Lake Leman. Rossiniére is home to the largest chalet in Switzerland, which is cool in itself.
Home of French Painter Balthus
One of community’s most famous residents was the French painter Balthus, who lived here from 1977 until his death in 2001. He was so cool that Bono sang at his funeral. Like many painters, Balthus’ work included nude women, but his second favorite subject was cats. And there you have it. He painted cats so often that he dubbed himself the King of Cats, thus the community in which he lived was, obviously, the Kingdom of Cats.
After his death, the people of Rossiniére decided to honor the creativity of their most famous neighbor by having a King of Cats Festival. But this isn’t your basic weekend event that includes arts & crafts, corn dogs and funnel cakes. That would be so gauche for an ultimately cool place like Rossiniére.
King of Cats Festival
The King of Cats Festival is a public art project, somewhat like Cows on Parade and other public art events made popular in the U.S. a some years ago. But each business, each household, each individual is encouraged to create some piece of art representing a cat – no pre-form mold or “copy cat” art projects here.
This past summer, Le Roi Des Chats included 81 entries. sprinkled through the little village. My favorite was a simple audio installation under the porch of one home. Cats purred and mewed loudly and occasionally got into a cat fight, until it was too much for some neighbors.
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite and the winners receive fun prizes. The only thing wrong with the festival, IMHO, is that it happens only every other year in even numbered years.
So this is a call to all cat lovers and creative art lovers – begin your travel plans NOW for the 2018 King of Cats Festival in Rossiniére. I’ll be there!