Bremen is one of the prominent cities in north western Germany. It is situated 60km south of the mouth of the Weser river mouth, which opens into the North Sea. Along with its cosmopolitan feel, its modern history dates back 1,200 years, while its marshes were settled about 14,000 years ago. Burial places can be seen that date back to the 7th century AD. For most of its history it was an independent city-state.
It is a Hanseatic city, and together with Bremerhaven, on the right of the mouth of the Weser River, it comprises the state of Bremen (officially Freie Hansestadt Bremen – Free Hanseatic City of Bremen).
Although it is part of Germany’s smallest state, it is the second most populated city in northern Germany, and the tenth most in Germany. Physically, it is a long, narrow city, lining both sides of the Weser. It measures about 10 km lengthwise, but is only 2km across. It is an industrial and commercial city, with a major port on the Weser River. As you can imagine, it offers a myriad of monuments to be seen and tales to be heard.
Best time to go
As noted above, Bremen is not far south of the North Sea. Consequently, its climate and weather should play a major part in your plans to visit. From November to March the average temperature is between 0 and 8 Celsius (46°F), and the rest between 21 and 23 Celsius (73°F). Spring and autumn are comfortable.
With an oceanic climate, it is susceptible to the ocean winds, much the same as Amsterdam, Seattle and Vancouver. The wind is usually around 16 kph, but gusting occurs, especially near the river and the canals. In 2007, a bad windstorm blew through northern Europe including Bremen at more than 200 kph, resulting in electricity cuts, downed trees, and broken windows.
It rains all year round in Bremen. June to December average 204 mm a month, with the lowest being between January and May, at 115 mm. It is only known to snow lightly in winter. The humidity is highly changeable, with up to 95% in the summer months. Spring and autumn are the most comfortable times for visiting.
Getting Around in Bremen
Bremen Airport is easily reached from the city centre by both tram and car, in about 10 minutes. It offers flights to most of the big German cities, and also some in Europe.
Most of Bremen can be walked, and indeed this is the best way of exploring the old parts of the city and its districts.
Bremen is the headquarters of the car sharing network, Cambrio, so a hire car is an easy choice.
If your choice is by bicycle, Bremen happens to be the most bike-friendly city in Germany. You can hire bicycles at the railway station; alternatively from one of a number of bike shops.
The tram and bus systems are highly evolved in the city, running both during the day, and almost all night. The trams run from the central station at half past every hour, and tickets can be purchased on board. Train tickets must be bought before you board; it also works out cheaper to buy day and/or weekly passes.
Taxis are of course another alternative, and bountiful, but as with most cases, you will pay more than public transport. They run around the clock, and advance bookings are not necessary.
Major Attractions and Sights
These are many and varied, so let’s look at them grouped according to type.
If history is your thing, the first stop would be the Focke Museum, People of Bremen’s Museum for Art and Cultural History, just outside the city centre.
Many of the sights in Bremen are found in the Altstadt (Old Town), an area surrounded by the Weser River, and the Wallgraben, the former moats of the medieval city walls, in the north east. The oldest part of the Altstadt is the southeast half, starting with the Marktplatz and ending at the Schnoor quarter.
The Schnoor is a small area of crooked lanes from the 17th and 18th centuries, now housing art galleries, artisan shops and cafes. Other interesting buildings in the vicinity of the Marktplatz are the Schütting, a 16th-century Flemish-inspired guild hall, and the Stadtwaage, the former weigh house built in 1588, with an ornate Renaissance façade.
Downriver from the Schnoor quarter, along the Schlachte Embankment, is Böttcherstrasse, a fusion of art and architecture created by Bremen coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius at the beginning of the 20th century. Roselius had the lane mainly built in the Expressionist style. It was damaged in the Second World War but rebuilt afterwards. On Böttcherstrasse is a carillon with bells from Meissen porcelain. The Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum was the first gallery in the world to be devoted solely to a female artist.
The town hall is over 600 years old, and it and the Roland Statue were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. In the Upper Hall, where ceremonies are held, there are model ships hanging from its ceiling, representing the importance of commerce and maritime trade to Bremen.
The Roland Statue near the town hall is carved from stone. It has been standing on Bremen’s historical market square for more than 600 years and is a symbol of freedom for the people of Bremen. He holds the “sword of justice” and a shield decorated with an imperial eagle.
The other statue near the entrance to the Ratskeller is Gerhard Marcks’ bronze sculpture Die Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians) which portrays the donkey, dog, cat and rooster of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. The animals have become an emblem; the story goes that anyone who touches the donkey’s legs will be granted a wish. The donkey’s legs must be rubbed lightly with both hands; using only one hand is a case of two donkeys shaking hands according to the locals.
Cathedrals to visit include the 13th century Cathedral St Petri, featuring sculptures of Charlemagne and Moses among others, the 11th century Liebfrauenkirche, and St Martin’s Church. St Peter’s Cathedral’s towers soar 99 metres into the air. It’s an unwritten rule that no building in Bremen should be higher than the cathedral. The cathedral’s origins hark back as far as 789AD, and it boasts a world-famous organ. Eight mummies in glass-topped coffins can be seen there. Among those on display: two Swedish officers from the Thirty Years’ War, an English countess, a murdered student, and a local pauper. The crypt has become the cathedral’s most visited attraction for more than 300 years.
If your tastes run to the more contemporary, there are many attractions for the tourist.
Museums include The Universum Science Centre, Botanika (a nature museum), the Kunsthalle Bremen (an art museum housing pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries), the Übersee Museum Bremen, the Kunstsammlungen Böttcherstraße, and the Weserburg Modern Art Museum located in the middle of the river.
After all that culture, Beck’s Brewery offers tours, which include beer tasting. Take note that tours need to be booked in advance.
Daytrips to Hanover, Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Hamelin (home of the Pied Piper) are made simple by rail connections.
Shopping in Bremen
The Weserpark in the east, the Waterfront in the west, Haven Höövt in the north and the Mediterraneo in Bremerhaven, are the biggest shopping malls in Bremen. Besides the malls, large department stores and small boutiques offer late shopping nights, and occasional Sunday shopping.
For over 20 years, the Bürgerweide Flea Market has sold oddities, modern goods and antiques. It’s on every Sunday from 7-2pm. There is also the antique and flea market on the river, which trades from 8-2pm on a Saturday. Browse for souvenirs, home crafts, antiques, and handmade gold.
Eating Out in Bremen
Northern Germany’s delicacies are fish (smelt and herring), smoked eel, Labskaus (mashed potatoes, onions, corned beef, beetroot and fried egg), and butterkuchen.
If you fancy beer and pretzels, the Schüttinger brewery house is the place to try. For a young vibe, there are many pubs, bars and cafes in the Schlachte. The Viertel is another popular area with lots of eateries. Knigge is a traditional coffee house. Staendige Vertrag is a wacky bar in Böttcherstraße that is worth a visit just for the experience. Asian restaurants are plenty including Chinese and Indian food.
Nightlife in Bremen
Stubu Dancehouse has 5 spaces over 3 floors and features funk, house and chart hits. La Viva is also massive, but is more for the tweens. In Neustadt, you find Modernes, which is billed as the best club in Bremen. It also hosts live music, and features a domed roof that opens. Nur Für Freunde (Just for Friends) is a chic place with lots of cocktails that plays dance, electro and house. This is the place to see both German and international DJs spin their stuff.
Tower is the place for touring heavy-metal groups; there’s a dark, cave-like atmosphere. It’s an out of the ordinary place for out of the ordinary people. Lemon Lounge is a cocktail bar with drinks galore and mouth-watering creations.
2raumlounge features space-age orange chairs, with the art on the walls for sale. The crowd is mostly mid-20’s, except when their football team Werder Bremen is playing, then expect some older regulars watching the match.
With regard to the gay scene, there are Café Kweer, The Room, and Rat und Tat.
Themed pubs and bars abound, with Bodega Del Puerto serving tapas, Irish Pub Schnoor, and Bolero Schlachte for Mexican dishes.
For theatre lovers, there is no shortage of high culture to be enjoyed. Bremen’s main theatre company is Theater Bremen, which performs across three venues. Theater Am Leibnizplatz houses the Bremer Shakespeare Company. Theater am Goetheplatz stages operettas, musicals and operas. Experimental theatre and modern dance can be found in the Concordia. Die Glocke hosts mainly events by visiting performers and is known for its great acoustics.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many other venues to be explored, and you should find a place just to your taste and liking.
Of Local Interest in Bremen
There are many annual events in Bremen. Here are a few:
- February: A carnival in the South American spirit
- August: the summer circus festival LA STRADA
- October: the Freimarkt, a huge fairground festival
- December: Christmas market around the Town Hall
The Freimarkt has been running since 1036 and is one of the world’s oldest fairground festivals, and one of Germany’s biggest.
Bremen is host to one of the four big annual Techno parades, the Vision Parade. It is also host to the “Bremer 6 Tage Rennen” a bicycle race at the Bremen Arena. Every year the city invites young musicians from across the world, to play in the International Youth Symphony Orchestra of Bremen (IYSOB).
If you like football (soccer), you can go to see a match of Werder Bremen, a team in the Bundesliga (German premier league). You can also visit their Weser stadium for a few euros.
A good place to get in touch with the locals is to take a stroll along the river Weser on the scenic Osterdeich, where lots of little groups hanging out on the grassy hills. The beautiful Bürgerpark is a fairly large park right in the middle of the city, which has a bit of a Central Park vibe to it. Have a drink at the Emma Café, rent a boat and paddle around the many little rivers, play minigolf or sit down in the grass enjoying some tasty ice cream.
For green fields, cows, bikers and in line skaters, visit Blockland to enjoy the agricultural side of Bremen´s nature. It is located near the river Wümme, to the west of the university. You can ride (by bike or skates) along the dyke and stop at one of the farms to buy organic food. In winter one can ice skate on the small creeks and rivers. Indoor ice skating is available at Paradice, which is open from October to February.
The Ratskeller is the oldest wine cellar in Germany. It dates to 1409 and houses over 650 German wines, housed in their original barrels. Stroll around the city centre and visit the Schnoor-Viertel with its old medieval buildings.
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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