Erfurt is one of the oldest German settlements and it dates back to the prehistoric area. Traces of human remains have been found in the city dating back to 100,000 BC. It’s the capital of the Thuringia region and has a colorful history having experienced being a part of the French Empire, the Prussian Empire, and the Electorate of Mainz.
Erfurt is the city closest to the geographical heart of modern Germany, enjoying a location on rolling plains. Whilst the city itself is decisively urban, the surroundings retain a charming and rustic identity where traditional rural life is evident. In the Middle Ages, the city was a highly important trading town, and many of the old buildings and market areas are still standing and in use today. A mark of its antique significance is its university which was founded in 1379, and where Martin Luther was a student.
Best Time to go to Erfurt
Temperatures range widely in Erfurt. For those who love the harsh, cold winters of Germany visit Erfurt in January or December as the temperatures drop below freezing. Bargain breaks in winter are attractive to those that love the crispness in the air and the lack of tourists. If there happens to be snow, the forests of Thuringia, outside the city, are certainly a very pretty sight.
In the summer, temperatures generally hover around the 70 degrees Fahrenheit mark, at their height. It’s never unbearably hot and wandering the pretty streets and parks of Erfurt is very pleasurable.
As the capital of the region, driving into Erfurt is a viable option if you are travelling around Germany. It lies on two large federal motorways in the north and the east, so there are four main ways into the city. It’s strongly recommended you avoid the city centre. Not only is it difficult to get directly to your destination, it’s almost impossible to find a parking space.
A large train station sits close to the centre of the city, with direct lines to other major cities like Dresden and Berlin. It’s possible to use Erfurt as a base to explore some of the other major cities in the area – Leipzig is an hour away, Weimar just about 15 minutes and Halle, the birthplace of Handel and the home of some lovely castles, can be reached in about 45 minutes. The Erfurt Hauptbahnhof offers local trains going to the smaller towns in the Thuringia region.
The Erfurt-Weimar Airport services the region and offers daily flights around Germany, as well as to prominent holiday destinations around Europe. If you are just flying into the city there are trams offering a direct connection to the train station and city center. Take tram number 4.
Unlike many tourist destinations, it’s unwise to opt for transport around the city centre. Since the centre of the city is the oldest part, the streets are naturally extremely narrow. Walking is definitely the best way to get around central Erfurt
The tram lines are amongst the most advanced in Europe. Erfurt has had a long time to make their tram system one of the best in the world as it’s been in place since 1883. Trolleybuses act as a supplement to the tram system and enable you to get where you need to go quickly and easily.
Transport generally grinds to a relative halt after midnight, but there are night buses every hour for people who need to get to the train station, or the center of the city. If this isn’t ideal, the only other option is to take advantage of a taxi, which visitors say are quite expensive.
Cycling is perfectly acceptable in Erfurt’s narrow streets. Expect to see a lot of cyclists around the city center as it’s generally the fastest way to get around.
Major Attractions and Sights
Find your way around the city with a guidebook from the tourist office which is located on Benediktsplatz in the city center. Erfurt’s romantic Old Quarter is Germany’s largest heritage site so lovers of history and architecture will find much of interest here.
The city’s narrow streets are an attraction all their own, harkening back to Erfurt’s historical past. Many central streets are open to pedestrians only, and are lined by delightful old merchant’s houses, many of them tall with brightly colored facades. A number of green areas with charming little bridges crossing the Gera River complete the distinctive northern European look and flavor.
The Erfurt Cathedral is an old 13th century Catholic church built by St. Boniface. It evolved into a church in the gothic style and now possesses beautiful stained-glass windows, a candelabrum shaped in the form of a bronze man, and choir stalls dating back to the 14th century. If you visit the city in August you can witness the Domstufen-Festspiele classical music festival which takes place in the square in front of the cathedral.
Severikirche, a huge 5-naved church known to date back to before the 12th century stands next door to the cathedral and together the two dominate the cityscape, making them the most well known attractions of Erfurt.
The Alte Synagoge is another exciting attraction for history buffs. Its roots date back to the 12th century, which makes it perhaps the oldest Jewish synagogue in Europe. In the 14th century, it was converted into a storehouse before being left to ruin for many years. It was eventually refurbished and now stands as a museum. Learn about the history of this exciting monument and the people who worshipped here with a visit to the museum. One of its exciting exhibits is the 600 pieces of jewelry unearthed in the Jewish quarter, including a Jewish marriage ring dating back to the early 1300s.
The Zitadelle Petersberg sits on the hill north of the Dom, and is the most well preserved town baroque fortress in central Europe. It is a unique example of European fortress construction built on the site of a former Benedictine monastery. Guided tours of the underground passages are always popular.
Another of the significant and actually quite remarkable sights of Erfurt is the Krämerbrücke. This medieval bridge sits across the River Breitstrom and originally had a church at each end. Today the Agidienkirche still functions as a church. The bridge was built in 1325 and is covered with 32 buildings, all of which are still inhabited.
Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, studied in Erfurt as a student and lived there as a monk in the early 16th century. If you want to learn more about Martin Luther – one of the most important figures in European religious history – the must-visits are the old university buildings, the Augustinekloster (monastery), Georgenburse (student’s living quarters), and the Luther Stone. Guided tours of the city always include much reference to him and his associations with Erfurt.
Other buildings that might be included on an itinerary are the impressive Town Hall, the Former Governors Residence (dating from 1711) which is now the Thuringia Chancellery, St. Barthelomew’s Tower, and the Woad Storehouse, where once the blue dye was made.
The Egapark is a place to take a break from the busyness of the city center. The large botanical gardens are a romantic location and there are greenhouses featuring beautiful little plants, a Japanese rock garden, and even a horticultural museum with fantastic views of the whole garden from the top floor.
The Erfurt Theatre has recently been renovated and plays host to a variety of exciting operas and plays. Look at the official website of the theatre for more information on what’s on. Remember to book in advance to view some of the more popular shows to avoid disappointment as they tend to sell out quickly.
Shopping in Erfurt
Anger 1 is in the city centre and is a grand shopping mall spanning four floors. Expect to find many common chains inside Anger 1, including clothing stores, electronics chains, and groceries.
Thüringenpark, Nordhäuser Straße is open every day from 10am to 8pm, except Sunday. This is another shopping centre just outside the city centre. It contains a post office, drug store, and even a German bank. It’s always worth a visit during the city’s holidays as special events and themes are always held here.
Within the city itself there are plenty of local stores to take advantage of. The Krämerbrücke is the main place to purchase souvenirs as local artists and craftspeople sell their wares on small stalls and in small shop windows. It’s a small sanctuary away from the massive apparel corporations dominating Erfurt’s shopping scene.
The best time for shopping is definitely in December, when Wenigemarkt is taken over by the Christmas Market. Enjoy traditional crafts, street entertainment, wonderfully intricate Christmas decorations and plenty of warming drinks and snacks.
Eating out in Erfurt
Erfurt is a great place to sample some of Germany’s national foods. The famous Thuringia Bratwurst is sold throughout the city.
Before embarking on a trip to a local restaurant in Erfurt, take note tipping isn’t a mandatory practice. If you can’t spare an extra few Euros don’t worry about it. Most servers are more than happy if their customers simply round-up their meal to the nearest Euro. Of course, if the service and the meal were particularly scrumptious don’t be afraid to give them a larger tip.
Lovers of traditional Thuringia foods should visit Feuerkugel in the centre of Erfurt where the menu is eminently affordable. Visitors report how the restaurant has an extremely friendly atmosphere with helpful and welcoming servers. Expect to find potato casserole, bratwurst, and of course, German beer to wash your meal down with.
Übersee is a small café and bar located on the banks of the Gera River. It’s the perfect location for a bite to eat during a long day of sightseeing. As well as traditional German drinks, the café offers a different special every day.
FAM (Feines am Markt) is the ideal option if you want good food without any of the fuss. On the outside it looks like an unremarkable location, but the food more than makes up for it. The breakfasts have been reported as a marvel to behold.
A large number of Asian Restaurants are in the city center of Erfurt including Kebab and Arabic restaurants.
Nightlife in Erfurt
Erfurt offers plenty of evening entertainment with small bars and loud clubs, mostly located in the city center.
Engelsburg is an interesting venue as there are so many sides of it to experience. Relax with a beer in the Steinhaus pub, dance in the medieval cellar or visit the Café DuckDich upstairs, where avid culture lovers discuss the latest developments in the art world.
Musikpark deserves a visit purely on the basis of its special offers. It normally plays rock and house music, but on Thursdays, there’s free entry until midnight and if you pay 6 Euros you can drink as much as you like. Weekends are themes, changing every week and the ti me to enjoy an extensive list of cocktails.
A visit to Hemingway adds a touch of sophistication to a night out in Erfurt. Personal drawers with cigar humidors are given to each visitor. There are 148 types of rum and an unbeatable range of 30 daiquiri cocktails. In the Africa Lounge there are stuffed elephants and other animals. Feel as if you’ve just stopped off from a safari at a local inn with some authentic African music to go along with it. This is truly an atmosphere like no other!
Of local Interest
You might notice that there are a lot of steeples in Erfurt with no churches? This is because they were demolished to build the dominating Zitadelle Petersberg.
Erfurt is such a historically rich city because the bombing campaigns of World War II largely avoided the city. It’s meant where many historical attractions from the middle ages were destroyed elsewhere in Germany, Erfurt remained relatively untouched.
Erfurt holds quite a grizzly reputation as being the place where the JA Topf & Sons crematoria manufacturer created special ovens for use by the Nazis in death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau. A memorial and museum to the victims of the Holocaust now stands in the place of the company’s former headquarters.
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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