Germany’s capital Berlin is perhaps Europe’s most intriguing city. Along with its obvious role in 20th century history, the city features an additional 7 centuries of history. Situated in east Germany along the Spree River, records of Berlin exist from as far back as the 13th century. The city’s location in central Europe has made it a key figure in regional politics from the 1700s, when it became the capital of Prussia. As kingdoms and borders changed throughout the centuries, Berlin remained a capital city, although it lost the status when Germany was split, regaining it on re-unification, and today has transformed itself into a haven for arts, culture and innovation.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, Berlin has rebranded itself as a premier cultural destination. Over the past 20 years, many of the city’s major landmarks and historic attractions have been restored to their former glory and are now open to eager visitors. While western Berlin has enjoyed steady growth, eastern Berlin has been the subject of major redevelopment and is now known around the world for its thriving arts and culture scenes.
The Best Time to Go to Berlin
Sitting along the European Northern Plains, Berlin enjoys a temperate climate between April and October each year. Late fall and winters tend to get quite cold, with night-time temperatures dipping below freezing on a regular basis. Berlins attracts visitors throughout the year regardless of the season, with many of the city’s cultural highlights including the Festival of Lights, Christmas Markets and Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival), occurring in the winter months. Berlin in winter is attractive as in the sun, so dress warmly and enjoy.
Getting Around in Berlin
Public Transportation is as expected in Germany – efficient and well-maintained. Berlin’s network of subway and tram lines makes it an easy city to navigate. Most of the Berlin’s major sights and attractions are within easy walking distance from a subway (U-Bahn) station, which are denoted at street level by the letter ‘U’. The U-Bahn network is divided into zones A, B and C, where A covers central Berlin with B and C expanding outwards.
Like most subway networks, there are a number of fares available on the U-Bahn. To keep things simple, it’s easiest to purchase either a day or week ticket, which will cost 6.50 and 28.00 Euros respectively for zones A and B.
Taxis provide another option for travelling in and around Berlin. Normally taking the form of beige colored Mercedes, they can be found lining up around major public transportation stations and tourists sights. Berlin is more driveable than most major cities and taxis drivers are usually able to speak English.
Main Attractions, Sights and Things to do
Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie
The fall of the Berlin Wall was one the most powerful moments in recent history, and triggered the reunification of Germany following decades of separation. The nation’s reunification revived Berlin and it has since become one of Europe’s premier cosmopolitan cities. As a reminder of its history, portions of the Berlin Wall as well as Checkpoint Charlie remain available for viewing
The product of over a century’s worth of careful construction and collecting, Berlin’s Museum Island is perhaps the greatest collection of museums on Earth. Consisting of the Altes (Old) Museum, Neues (New) Museum, Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), visitors to the island are privy to priceless artefacts, artworks and ancient architectural finds from antiquity and Germany.
Located in the heart of Berlin, Museum Island is easily accessible via several public transport stations including U-Bahn stations Friedrichstrasse, Alexanderplatz and S-Bahn station Hackescher Markt. Highlights of Museum Island include the 2nd century Pergamon Altar, the famous Bust of Nefertiti and a fully reconstructed Ishtar Gate, which once stood as the gateway to Babylon.
Also located on Museum Island, the Berliner Dom’s history dates back to the 1400s and has been on the receiving end of several iterations over the centuries. In its current state, the cathedral represents the neo-renaissance construction from 1905, though it was significantly damaged in World War II. Re-inaugurated in 1993, it features a stunning neo-classical interior and a magnificent pipe organ.
Unter den Linden
Best viewed in the summer or spring when the rows of linden (lime) trees still feature their leaves, Unter den Linden boasts the quintessential view of Berlin. Starting at Brandenburg Gate, head east past the iconic gate towards Museum Island. The street is perhaps Berlin’s most famous and is home to the Berlin State Opera, German History Museum, Humboldt University and more.
Built in 1791 as a monument to peace, the Brandenburg Gate was featured prominently throughout World War II and the Cold War that followed. On the border between the former East and West Berlin, the wall has been featured prominently as a political symbol. Today, it stands as Berlin’s most recognizable landmark and is surrounded by a refurbished pedestrian area along with the embassies of the United States and United Kingdom.
Perhaps the greatest symbol of Berlin’s rebirth and the reunification of Germany, the Reichstag has been witness to its fair share of historical moments. Once home to the parliament of the German Empire from 1894 to 1933, the building was nearly destroyed when Berlin fell in World War II. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag played host to the official German reunification ceremony in 1990. In 1999, the Reichstag’s famous dome was rebuilt featuring modern glasswork and the building was subsequently handed over to the Bundestag, where it is used for official meetings.
The Reichstag sits very near Brandenburg Gate and can be reached by U-Bahn stations Brandenburger Tor and Bundestag. Visitors who register in advance can access the building’s distinctive glass dome for spectacular views of Berlin below.
Though its origins date back to the early 1800s where it was a prominent cattle market, Alexanderplatz is better known for its role in the fall of East Berlin. In the 1960s, the square was subject to a redevelopment project undertaken by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), who built the large Fernsehturm (Television Tower) which has become a hallmark of the Berlin skyline. In November 1989, the square played host to East Germany’s largest demonstration. Known as the Alexanderplatz Demonstration, an estimated 1,000,000 participants congregated around the square in a event that played a crucial role in the destruction of the Berlin Wall shortly thereafter.
Today, Alexanderplatz has been further revitalized, though it still retains many of the architectural features from its 1960s facelift. In close proximity to many of Berlin’s other historic attractions, Alexanderplatz now stands as a major transportation hub and shopping destination.
Schloss (Palace) Charlottenburg
Located in the scenic western suburb of Charlottenburg, Charlottenburg Palace dates back to 1699, and was once home to the royal Hohenzollern family. Over 300 years later, the palace is one of Berlin’s largest attractions. Much of the original structure as well as a rebuilt wing is open to the public and features handcrafted baroque and rococo detailing, period furniture and artwork. Surrounding the palace are acres of manicured lawns and gardens also open to the public.
To reach the palace, ride the U-Bahn to Sophie-Charlotte-Platz and follow Schlossstrasse north. Alternatively, the palace is also a short walk from the S-Bahn station Berlin Westend.
Shopping in Berlin
Short for Kaufhaus des Westens (Shopping Mall of the West), the KaDeWe is Berlin’s premier shopping destination. Featuring over 60,000 square meters of shopping space and restaurants, the mall covers 8 floors, each featuring a different category of merchandise.
The KaDeWe is located just outside the Wittenbergplatz U-Bahn station.
It’s hard to miss the pink glow of the Alexa Centre, which is strategically placed within striking distance from the iconic Alexanderplatz. In addition to 5 levels of shopping, the shopping centre features a large children’s play area as well as the largest model railway in the world.
To reach the Alexa Centre, exit S and U-Bahn station Alexanderplatz.
Antikmarkt am Ostbahnhof
Berlin isn’t short on traditional markets. For antiques and cold war artifacts, head to the Antikmarkt (Antique Market) located just outside of the city’s Ostbahnhof (East Train Station). In addition to an array of antiques spanning a few centuries of European history, visitors can also sample traditional Berlin street food while they browse.
Eating Out in Berlin
As a truly international city, Berlin features a host of amazing restaurants spanning cuisines across the world. Catering to any budget, Berlin is home to its own unique brand of street food which can be had for just a few Euros, while there is also a growing number of gourmet restaurants with Michelin-star chefs.
Well-priced and accessible, Curry 36 is an excellent place to begin a culinary tour of Berlin. Serving the city’s famous currywurst, the famous street food staple can be found in Mehringdamm and Hardenbergplatz. Curry 36 is popular with both locals and tourists, so don’t be surprised to find snaking lines of hungry customers during peak times.
Tucked away in Charlottenburg is a popular Cantonese and Pan-Asian restaurant frequented by those looking for authentic Asian cuisine in the heart of Europe. Incorporating authentic ingredients into a dizzying array of dishes including traditional Peking duck, wonton soup and century eggs with jellyfish, patrons are guaranteed to go home happy and full.
Located within the Regent Hotel in central Berlin, Fischers Fritz is the home of two-star michelin chef Christian Lohse, who focuses his efforts on amazing seafood dishes. Despite the prestige, the restaurant’s two-course lunch menu is surprisingly affordable at 35 Euros.
Their are a large number of Asian and Arabic restaurants in Berlin.
Nightlife in Berlin
Berlin’s nighttime offerings range from stereotypical European discotheques to more eclectic haunts attracting residents and visitors from all walks of life.
One of Berlin’s more sophisticated clubs, this Kreuzberg hotspot boasts fabulous views of the Spree River while supplying its patrons with a steady stream of electro, house and techno music.
As its name might suggest, this establishment is home to two separate clubs which together make for what is by far Berlin’s most frequented clubbing destination. Located just outside Berlin’s East Train Station, the well designed complex features a top-notch sound system and a liberal attitude.
A mainstay of the Berlin punk scene, head to Supamolly for a peek into the city’s alternative nightlife. The venue plays host to local punk acts on a regular basis and attracts an eclectic crowd.
Anything of local interest
Festival of Lights
A relatively new tradition in Berlin, the Festival of Lights is fast becoming the highlight of the city’s fall tourist season. Each October, the city’s landmarks are illuminated by a dazzling display of colorful lights for 12 nights. The Berliner Dom, Charlottenburg Palace, Brandenburg Gate and more all transform into spectacles of light during the festival, which features special night time ‘light tours’ of the city.
Each year, tourists from all around the world flock to Germany to experience the nation’s many traditional Christmas markets. In the month preceding Christmas, Berlin hosts several large Christmas markets to the delight of visitors and locals alike.
The Spandau Christmas Market is the largest in town and is set within a beautiful old square. The market boasts an incredible 400 stalls on weekends in addition to regular live entertainment, live animals, a carousel and more. Stalls feature traditional Christmas decorations and gifts from Germany and other parts of the world, in addition to traditional foods such as mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and gingerbread. If Spandau is not enough, Christmas markets can also be found at Charlottenburg Palace, Potsdamer Platz, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial and Gendarmenmarkt.
Despite the chilly temperatures, movie stars from around the world flock to Berlin in February to attend the Berlin Film Festival. Held over 10 days, the festival spans 15 separate venues featuring everything from independent to blockbuster and foreign films. In addition to red carpet events and priority screenings, festival attendees can watch films to their heart’s content buy purchasing tickets at participating venues.
Wirecard : How Jan Marsalek Friend Henry O’Sullivan became “Corinna Müller”
The Briton Henry O’Sullivan is regarded as the dazzling puller of many Wirecard deals and friend of Jan Marsalek and internal emails show how big his influence was in the company.
Henry O’Sullivan celebrated his 40th birthday in paradise. He invited lawyers, managers and high-ranking executives from Wirecard to the lonely dream island of Benguerra off the coast of the East African state of Mozambique. Board member Jan Marsalek and his girlfriend should also come.
As a souvenir, the host wanted: pens for the school children in town and champagne for the party weekend.
The luxury resort Azura Retreats, which O’Sullivan rented in November 2014, had cabins right on the beach, palm trees, and a beach. On arrival, the guests would have to wade through knee-deep water as the British businessman’s assistant warned a month before the celebration. That wasn’t a problem for Jan Marsalek. He preferred to travel by helicopter anyway, according to an email from his secretary.
The extravagant birthday plans reveal a lot about two of the central key figures in the Wirecard scandal. Jan Marsalek (40) and Henry O’Sullivan (46) are close confidants who worked together on big deals far away from the headquarters in Aschheim. Now the judiciary is asking whether millions have been diverted. Wirecard is insolvent and Marsalek is on the run.
O’Sullivan does not answer inquiries. At the beginning of 2020, he only wanted to talk to the examiners from KMPG and EY under certain conditions but then he was no longer available to them.
The beefy Brit was known for his dissolute lifestyle. In Singapore he often dined in a top restaurant on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, with a view over the harbor. To save time on business trips, he preferred to travel short distances by helicopter instead of taxi and in the meantime he lived on a yacht in Monaco.
Marsalek had O’Sullivan flown in in 2014 to celebrate with him at the Munich Oktoberfest. A year later they flew through South Africa in the Learjet 45XR. And when the Briton wanted to meet the Wirecard executive board in Jakarta in 2014, he asked an Indonesian employee by email about a hotel that would tolerate the “type of spring break business trips”.
Beyond its luxury life, only fragments of O’Sullivan’s businesses are known. The Briton did not hold an official position at Wirecard. Many consider him a “phantom” in the background, a member of the mysterious clique around Marsalek.
It was stored in the Wirecard address book with an external e-mail address for freelancers – his profile photo showed Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord: another bad joke by Jan Marsalek, as insiders suspect.
As much as O’Sullivan was on business trips, he was always careful to be discreet. This is also shown by an episode from spring 2020, when the Wirecard world was already falling apart and auditors examined the opaque third-party business for which Marsalek was responsible.
O’Sullivan was very knowledgeable about third party business and a strange company purchase in India in 2015. He was therefore a sought-after discussion partner for the annual auditors from EY and the special auditors from KPMG. O’Sullivan apparently managed to convince the supervisory board of a special protective measure.
A sought-after discussion partner for EY and KPMG
O’Sullivan demanded at the end of April or beginning of March 2016 that his name should not be recorded in the “final report” or in any other correspondence with Wirecard. “These papers have a habit of appearing in public,” he wrote to an assistant at Marsalek. He assumes that “everything that is written will ultimately be read by others” and he therefore insists on being given a pseudonym.
This is how Mr. O’Sullivan became Mrs. Müller. On March 4, a legal advisor to the Supervisory Board wrote to Wirecard management: “As discussed yesterday, a code name should be used for all further e-mails and other references. Proposal: ‘Ms. Corinna Müller’. ”On the same day, EY agreed not to use the name in communication with Wirecard international.
According to supervisory board circles, however, it was clear: There should be no special treatment in the confidential internal audit report, and O’Sullivan’s real name would have been mentioned here.
But it did not get to that. According to the “Wall Street Journal”, the special auditor KPMG was cross: O’Sullivan had also made the condition of their auditors anonymous. When they refused, he refused to speak.
He could tell so much in the process. In the ten years before the bankruptcy alone, Wirecard acquired companies for 1.2 billion euros, according to insolvency administrator Michael Jaffé. In his report, Jaffé writes that the deals were one reason for the “enormous consumption of liquidity in recent years”. The public prosecutor is investigating former executives on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust.
O’Sullivan was involved in numerous Wirecard deals. His name is linked to one of the largest and most dubious deals the payment service provider has done in recent years: the takeover of the Indian Hermes group in 2015. Wirecard bought the companies from the Mauritius-registered fund Emerging Markets Investment Fund 1A (EMIF 1A) for 326 million euros. The amazing thing: the fund had only acquired the same company and assets a few months earlier for around 35 million euros and it is still not clear who was behind that deal
Marsalek stated in an interview with Handelsblatt at the beginning of 2020 that he had not checked the background. But insiders report that O’Sullivan and Marsalek were the ones who planned the deal and who ultimately benefited from it. In any case, the original Hermes sellers now feel cheated. They filed a lawsuit that revealed that it was O’Sullivan who negotiated the sale to the EMIF 1A fund for € 35 million.
The central figure in Senjo was also O’Sullivan, even if he did not hold an official position. A PR consultant for the British company stated in 2019 that her client worked for Senjo. That’s only half the story. In practice, O’Sullivan is said to have been the one in charge of Senjo. In Singapore, the authorities are now investigating for falsification of accounts in the vicinity of the group of companies.
How hard Marsalek worked internally at Wirecard for his party friend O’Sullivan is shown by a short-term lending business from 2016, which several Wirecard board members dealt with. Ascheimer Wirecard Bank AG granted Cottisford Holdings Ltd, a generous credit line of ten million euros from O’Sullivan, for which Wirecard AG guaranteed as internal emails and documents prove this.
“Today the supervisory board formally approved the loan retrospectively, but was not ‘amused’ about it,” wrote the then board member Rainer Wexeler of Wirecard Bank AG on March 2, 2016 to Marsalek. He complained that the panel had been poorly informed. Wexeler asked: “Can you please give me the private address of O’Sullivan and some key business data about his business, his connection to Wirecard AG, etc.?”
Wirecard Scandal claims another Victim – Heike Pauls from Commerzbank
It’s not even eight months since Germany’s number one payment service provider imploded: Wirecard had to admit in June 2020 that billions of euros never existed on the balance sheet. As a result, board members had to go to jail or disappeared without a trace. Since then, auditors have been distrusted, and the head of the BaFin supervisory authority has to look for a new job. The youngest victim is Heike Pauls of the German Commerzbank.
Up until a few weeks before the Wirecard scandal burst, several analysts in various banks believed in Wirecard. They unshakably believed that the annual financial statements for 2019, which had been postponed several times, would end well, some experts continued to insist on Wirecard price targets of 180 to 240 euros.
One of the bravest supporters of the scandal group was Heike Pauls from Commerzbank. The analyst was always loyal to Wirecard: She dismissed critical reports about the payment processor as false reports and even a few weeks before the collapse she issued a buy recommendation with a price target of 230 euros for the Wirecard share.
As the Spiegel reported, Pauls had in the meantime also provided the management of the payment processor with sensitive information that it had collected specifically on the capital market. In January Commerzbank had already restructured the research department and relieved the analyst of her duties, now the announcement was made:
“Commerzbank has terminated the employment relationship.”
The Wirecard scandal is far from being dealt with. Further personnel consequences in various economic areas could follow. Extensive claims for damages by investors against the insolvent payment service provider are also examined and the the Wirecard share remains taboo for any investors.
Wirecard Committee – Doubts about Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s Credibility
Didn’t Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg tell the whole truth when he appeared as a witness on the Wirecard investigative committee? Internal documents that are available to the ARD studio fuel the suspicion. The SPD accuses him of having lied to the committee and in the opposition too, doubts about its credibility are growing.
In December Guttenberg was asked about his role in the Wirecard scandal in the Bundestag. It was also about an article that the former CSU minister published in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” at the end of March 2020. The topic: The role of short sales in the Corona crisis. At the time, Wirecard was targeted by shortsellers, i.e. stock exchange traders who bet on falling prices for a company and Guttenberg had argued against such short sales in the article.
Mail to ex-Wirecard boss Markus Braun
Guttenberg apparently did not want to draw a direct connection to his work for Wirecard, but there are doubts about this representation.
An email to the then Wirecard boss Markus Braun, however, indicates that Guttenberg could very well have had the now insolvent DAX group in mind when he wrote the text for the FAZ.
In this email of March 20, 2020, the Managing Director of the communications company Edelman, Rüdiger Assion, proposed a “Short Selling Action Plan” to the Wirecard boss. Among other things, this contained the suggestion that Guttenberg could write a guest commentary on the subject of short sales in the newspapers FAZ or “Die Welt”. An argumentation paper with key messages is also attached to the mail. Just six days later, exactly such a guest comment appears in the FAZ. Guttenberg’s argumentation shows clear similarities with the line proposed in the argumentation paper.
SPD speaks of a lie
The SPD chairman in the Wirecard committee, Zimmermann, therefore accuses Guttenberg of not telling the truth on the witness stand. Zimmermann told the ARD city studio: “He (Guttenberg’s note by the editor) lied to the investigative committee and tried to set the wrong track when he denied arguing for a ban on short sales in the interests of Wirecard. A real surprise is this lack of honesty not with him. ” Now it must be clarified whether Guttenberg deliberately wanted to mislead the investigative committee.
CDU defends Guttenberg
Guttenberg is defended by the CDU. The MP Matthias Hauer said that the SPD should primarily devote itself to the question of why the BaFin, supervised by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, imposed the short sale ban on Wirecard. “This should certainly contribute more to the explanation of Wirecard than an article in the name of an ex-politician on the subject in the FAZ.”
But doubts about Guttenberg’s credibility are also growing among the opposition. The chairman of the Greens, Danyal Bayaz, said that Guttenberg’s remarks on his opinion contribution had already been implausible in the committee of inquiry. “Apparently it was part of the advisory service to specifically win over public opinion for a renewed ban on short selling.” That does not cast a good light on Guttenberg’s honesty.
The Linke chairman in the committee, Fabio de Masi, can imagine summoning the former Federal Minister again: “If Mr. Guttenberg was Baron Münchhausen and had said the untruth in front of the committee of inquiry, this would also be criminally relevant, (…) the question is then whether his other statements that he had met the Chancellor privately are also untrue. “
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