Oktoberfest In Dusseldorf

“O’zapft is!”  It is that time of year!

What am I talking about?  Oktoberfest!  And “O’zapft is!”  is traditional opener to the festivities.  This is from the Bavarian dialect and means that the first keg of the season has been tapped.

You have probably heard about the traditional German Oktoberfest at least once, right? Then you might know that Munich is especially famous for this celebration. While the Bavarian festivities remain the largest, other events are cropping up throughout Germany.  And as the jovial mood spreads, I think it only fitting that I share my experience from the inaugural Dusseldorf celebration held just last year.


I’ve been a huge fan of the Oktoberfest for many years and when I heard that the tradition had arrived in my beautiful hometown, I could not believe it. So what did I do? Of course I put on my best Dirndl and jumped into the festivities to see if the Rhenish people could keep up with the Bavarians. And let me tell you: It was definitely a success! I particularly liked the location that was chosen for the Oktoberfest in Dusseldorf. It takes place at the Rhine Promenade, where I also like to spend most of my spare time.

I started my day with a delicious pretzel, Bavarian veal sausage with sweet mustard and, most importantly, a freshly tapped Mass.  A Mass is a huge glass jug, which contains one liter of beer.  It is common to drink these throughout the Oktoberfest celebrations, beginning with breakfast and continuing throughout the day.  There is even a traditional song that encourages drinkers to clink their Mass with those around them.  It seems the song is played just about every five minutes, so it is important to have a Mass in hand!

Another fun aspect is seeing everyone dressed in traditional clothes.  The men wear leather trousers known as Lederhosen, a plaid shirt and sometimes also those cute hats with feathers on top. The women wear my personal favorite, the Dirndl. The Dirndl consists of a blouse, with a dress consisting of a corset top and full skirt topped with an apron. You can find it in every color and pattern. The Dirndl is a figure hugging dress that seems to make every woman look her best! The women top of the look with braids in every style.

But the Dirndl does more than set the tone of the event- it can also communicate the relationship status of the wearer.  If you wear the apron knot on the left side, it means you are single, on the right it means you are in a relationship.  Knots on the back suggest you are widowed (unless you are working as a waitress!) and in the front the knot means you are married.  Who would have guessed an apron could say so much?!

You are now perfectly prepped for a visit to Dusseldorf’s Oktoberfest.  This year celebrations started on September 19th and goes for about two weeks. So be sure to make your plans today!  Your Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistant will help you make it the perfect vacation.


Atlzazilistle: The Jaguar Fight Rain Ritual

I love Mexican traditions, and if you’ve read my previous posts, we have plenty of them!  Recently I learned about an amazing tradition, unique to our state Guerrero.  It is a rain ritual and I would love to share it with you.

Atlzazilistle (or the Jaguar fight rain ritual) is a petition for rain and fertility.  The festival takes place in the village Acatlán, about 6 hours from Ixtapa.  Each year the events begins with the blessing of the seeds on April 25, and the climax of the celebrations arrives in early May with festivities organized by the hosts and community authorities.

During the festival people offer birds, flowers, food, copal and wax figures at various hills and sacred places.  One of the most interesting and picturesque rituals happens on May 2, with staged fights among various masked figures.  Early in the morning the tlacololeros (men in masks, jute suits and with whips) visit mayordomo at his home, where they offer him pozole and mezcal as an invitation to the ceremonies and a signal of the start of the ritual.

"Jaguar Dance" by Susan Contreras.

“Jaguar Dance” by Susan Contreras.

After this, the entire community gathers at the church, where the tlacololeros, the cotlatlastin (men of the wind) and tecuanis (men dressed as a jaguar) are presented.  The church music is played by teponaxtli (a slit drum made of hollow hardwood logs) and the chirimía (a wooden flute), while the church bells formally announce the start of the festivities.  At that moment tecuanis (people dressed as jaguars) gather in groups of 22 and begin to fight.  This part of the ritual aims to bring rain and good crops, as it is an ancient belief that “The more the tecuanis (jaguars) fight, the more rain falls.”

The fights continue to the next day, when participants march to the top of a sacred hill Cerro del Cruzco.  This is the climax of the offering to the earth (huentli) to bring rains and good crops.

During the festivities each of the tecuanis keeps complete anonymity.  They dress and groom alone so their opponents – who can be their friends or even family – don’t recognize them. The tecuani use a skin mask made by craftsmen of Acatlán.  They are amazingly beautiful and considered a master craft, and can sell for hundreds of US dollars.

This tradition has been passed from generation to generation, and it is believed that every stroke of a wrestler over another is a prayer for good rain and good soil.

This is quite the festival!  And I look forward to seeing the results from this year’s harvest.

Pelea De Jaguares: Un Ritual Para La Lluvia

Me encantan las tradiciones mexicanas, y como han podido leer en mis anteriores artículos, ¡tenemos muchas de ellas! Recientemente aprendí sobre una sorprendente tradición, única de nuestro estado de Guerrero, y me gustaría compartirla con ustedes.

El Atlzazilistle (o Peleas Jaguar para el ritual de la lluvia) es una petición de lluvia y fertilidad. El festival tiene lugar en el pueblo de Acatlán, a 6 horas en carretera de Ixtapa. Cada año el evento inicia con la bendición de las semillas el 25 de Abril, y el clímax de las celebraciones llega a inicio de Mayo con las fiestas organizadas por los “mayordomos” y autoridades de la comunidad.

Durante el festival la gente ofrece aves, flores, comida, copal y figuras de cera en varios cerros y lugares sagrados. Uno de los rituales más interesantes y pintorescos sucede en 2 de Mayo, con escenas de peleas entre varios personajes enmascarados. En la madrugada los “tlacololeros” (hombres ataviados en máscaras, trajes de yute y latigos) visitan al mayordomo en su casa, donde se les ofrece pozole y mezcal como bienvenida y señal de inicio de el ritual.

"Jaguar Dance" by Susan Contreras.

“Jaguar Dance” by Susan Contreras.

Después de esto, toda la comunidad se junta en la iglesia, donde los tlacololeros, los “cotlatlastin” (hombres del viento) y los “tecuanis” (hombres vestidos de jaguar) son presentados. La música en la iglesia se toca con “teponaxtli” (un tambor prehispánico hecho con troncos huecos) y la “chirimía” (flauta de madera), mientras las campanas anuncian el comienzo de las festividades. En ese momento los tecuanis se organizan en grupos de 22 y comienzan a pelear. Esta parte del ritual busca atraer lluvia y buenas cosechas, ya que como marca la antigua creencia “Mientras más pelean los tecuanis (jaguares), más lluvia cae.”

Las peleas duran hasta el siguiente día, cuando los participantes se dirigen a la cima del Cerro del Cruzco. este es el punto más alto de la ofrenda a la tierra (huentli) lo cual traerá lluvias y buenas cosechas.

Durante los festejos cada uno de los tecuanis conserva completo anonimato. Se visten y preparan en solitario, para que sus contrincantes, que pueden ser incluso sus amigos o familia, no los reconozcan. El tecuani usa una máscara de piel endurecida creada por los artesanos de Acatlán. Son sorprendentemente bellas y consideradas una artesanía muy fina, e incluso se pueden vender por miles de pesos.

Esta tradición ha pasado de generación en generación, y se cree que cada golpe de uno de los peleadores (tecuanis) a otro es una plegaria para atraer la lluvia y la tierra fértil.

¡Vaya que es una festividad! Y espero pronto ver los resultados de la cosecha de este año.

A Visit To Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival

Earlier this month Washington D.C. began the spring celebration of the 101st National Cherry Blossom Festival!  Hundreds and thousands of visitors from all over the world attended this special two week event that began on March 20th and ended April 14th.  During this period I had the chance to watch each cherry bud grow into flowering pieces of art on my way to work.  It was during the days of the peek bloom when I had the opportunity to actually walk through the Tidal Basin, taking photos; admiring the beauty of the trees and interviewing a few Cherry Blossom visitors!

Over two thousand cherry trees arrived in Washington, D.C. as a gift from Tokyo on January 6, 1910.   I could see the remarkable difference between the stunning ancient tree trunks of the original trees versus the more recently planted saplings.  After speaking with one of the ladies at the help desk, she said this season was particularly wonderful because of the great weather during peak bloom.  The cherry blossom trees bloom when the weather reaches above 70 degrees.  But it is the evening time that can’t be missed, as that is when the flowers truly start to flourish.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown is located less than 3 miles from the Cherry Blossom Festival, making it the perfect destination for springtime.  I look forward to next years events!  If you join us during the Cherry Blossom Festival be sure to let your Personal Assistant help plan the experience for you.


Photo Credit, Sarah Corneal

The Zihua Sail Fest

One of the most popular sports in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is sailing.  Every year, thousands of sailing aficionados come to enjoy and practice their favorite sport in the beautiful natural setting of Zihuatanejo.  The Zihua Sail Fest, which is celebrating its twelfth anniversary, has become one of my favorite events of the year.

In true spirit of a “rendezvous”, vessels start arriving in November from as far away as Alaska and the Caribbean and drop anchor until February to participate in what is becoming one of Mexico’s premier sailing events.

The Zihua Sail Fest is a five-day festival that combines fun and games, heart-felt volunteerism and an outpouring of international friendship.  The general mood of the event is light-hearted, but participants’ goals are pretty serious:  To raise funds for the education of Zihuatanejo’s disadvantaged children.

 Zihua Sail Fest

Sailboat and dinghy races, cocktail parties, concerts, live auctions, kids’ day, beach parties, chili cook-offs, regattas and school events are just some of the activities that highlight this gathering.  (In fact, Capella Ixtapa’s seafood chili recipe won the contest last year!)

Last year, bolstered by grants from Rotary International, materials donations from the city government, and the volunteer labor of dozens of parents, the event raised $474,000 pesos.  The money provided our community with a new kindergarten and primary school.  Projects funded by the last Zihua Sail Fest benefited five schools and more than 400 children.

This year the festival takes place from February 5th until February 10th.  Last year 102 vessels registered and we are hoping for even more this year!  If you are interested in partaking in this year’s events, please join me at Capella Ixtapa and your Personal Assistant will happily help in your planning.  For more information on the fundraiser & foundation visit PorLosNinos.com.


Photo by: Christian Ramiro González Verón via Flickr

El Zihua Sail Fest

Uno de los deportes más populares en Ixtapa Zihuatanejo es la Vela. Cada año, miles de aficionados a la Vela vienen a disfrutar y practicar su deporte favorito en el hermoso marco natural que brinda Zihuatanejo. El Zihua Sail Fest, el cual cumple su 12º aniversario, se ha vuelto uno de mis eventos favoritos del año.

Con un espíritu real de “cita”, las embarcaciones comienzan a arribar en Noviembre de puntos tan lejanos como Alaska y el Caribe y anclan hasta Febrero para ser parte de un evento que ya se considera entre los mejores eventos de Vela de México.

El Zihua Sail Fest, es un festival de cinco días que combina ocio y diversión, voluntariado de corazón, y una efusiva amistad internacional. El ambiente general del evento es relajado, sin embargo, las metas de los participantes son muy serias: Recaudar fondos para la educación de los niños con desventajas de Zihuatanejo.

 Zihua Sail Fest

Regatas de Veleros y Vela ligera (dinghy), cocteles, conciertos, subastas, día de los niños, fiestas en la playa, parrilladas de Chili al aire libre, clases públicas y eventos escolares son solo algunas de las actividades que enmarcan este evento. (De hecho, la receta para el chili de mariscos de Capella Ixtapa ganó la parrillada del 2012!)

El año pasado, apoyados por donaciones del Club Rotario Internacional, materiales por parte de las autoridades municipales, y la labor voluntaria de docenas de padres, el evento recaudó $474,000 pesos. El dinero sirvió para habilitar un nuevo jardín de niños y una primaria para la comunidad. Los proyectos apoyados por el Zihua Sail Fest beneficiaron a 5 escuelas y más de 400 niños.

Este año el festival tendrá lugar del martes 5 al domingo 10 de Febrero. Durante la edición anterior 102 embarcaciones se registraron y esperamos aún más este año! Si estás interesado en participar en los eventos de este año, por favor, acompáñanos en Capella Ixtapa y tu Asistente Personal estará encantado de ayudarte a planear tu asistencia. Para más información sobre la fundación y recaudación de fondos visita: PorLosNinos.com


Imagen por: Christian Ramiro González Verón via Flickr