Just a few minutes’ drive from the very heart of the steamy city centre of Berlin in Germany, perched majestically on the banks of the Havel River, lies the glorious capital of Brandenberg – Potsdam. With a sensational history, delightfully colorful and seeped in regal heritage, Potsdam was once the glorious home to German Kaisers and Prussian Kings in its royal heyday up until 1918. Although royalty no longer swans through the sprawling parks and gardens alongside the manicured banks of glittering lakes, there is a distinctive imperial air about the city, where its lavish history is anything but forgotten.
Listed as a World Heritage site in the 90s, Potsdam is home to the legendary collection of parks and palaces known as Sanssouci – the brainchild of one Frederick the Great, or as his minions knew him – King Friedrich II. Sanssouci was the summer palace of the great King of Prussia and its surrounding terraced gardens, manicured parks, rolling lawns and interconnected lakes survived through some devastating WWII bombings.
Host to the legendary Potsdam Conference in August 1945, the Schoss Cecilienhof Palace was designed to look like an English Tudor Manor and was built for Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany by the Hohenzollern family. With such deeply cultural, political and royal roots, the city today is a charismatic blend where old meets new. A capital city of science and home to the Filmstudio Babelsberg, the added constraints of the city not being accessible from the city of Berlin until very recent times also makes it one of the most exciting German cities to visit.
The Best Time to Go
Germany is one of those wonderful countries that is great to visit all year round; all it depends on is what kind of style of travelling and climate you prefer. Each season brings its own special delights and some parts of the year are busier than others. Summer is obviously the most popular time of the year to travel – between the months of June, July and August. The balmy warm weather brings in hordes of tourists all coming to enjoy the exciting open air festivals and great weather. But this tends to be a very busy time and you can expect long lines to all of the attractions and the highest prices for airfares and hotels.
If you are not a fan of the chilly winter weather, or a fan of high season prices, then the spring time will be the perfect time for you to go. The temperatures are getting warmer, Easter and spring celebrations are in full swing and the prices will be kinder to your budget. In addition, you won’t have to contend with masses of people either.
Autumn is a great time to go as well – once all the summer tourists have returned from whence they came and the heat of the peak of summer is simmering down. Prices are much tamer and you can enjoy one of the many local wine festivals in peace and quiet. But this is the calm before the Oktoberfest storm which happens in Munich, where mini season arrives again. So book early, arrive before Oktoberfest and leave afterwards, just don’t forget your brollie – autumn is rainy season.
If you are a winter sports enthusiast, then you are in luck, winter holiday season over December in Germany is a real treat. Very cold and full of festivities this is one of the busiest times as the run up to Christmas draws near. Lots of Christmas markets, mulled wine and snowmen make this one of the most romantic times to go.
Getting Around in Potsdam
The transport system in Potsdam is high tech and for the most part excellent, but can be very confusing at first. Consisting mainly of trams and busses, Potsdam, Berlin and some areas of Brandenburg are all part of the VBB transport network, so you can hop on and off where ever you want to, as long as your ticket has the correct zone validation.
The easiest way to buy tickets is to purchase a rechargeable Geldkarten card and swipe it at any tram or bus terminal, but keep some small change handy for when the ticket machines are out of order. There is a new cutting edge ticketless system that uses a smartphone app to deduct funds from your account when you pass through various zones.
Although it may be confusing, it is actually quite logical once you get going, and the staff at VBB are helpful, patient and speak English, which will be a great help when you get stuck. You can get all of your information, prices and times for any of the 5 main lines in and around Potsdam on the VBB website.
Major Attractions and Sights
With so many breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout the capital city of Brandenburg, Potsdam is one of the most exciting places in Eastern Germany to visit. With the palaces being some of the biggest draw cards to the city, there is so much more to see and experience. it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some places you must not miss when you visit here.
The Cecilienhof Palace is the historic site of the Potsdam Conference held in the summer of 1945, after WWII. The Great Hall was full of historic giants like Truman, Stalin and Churchill, as they sat around a giant round table, deciding the future of a post war Germany. See the original table, in the actual hall, lots of flags, authentic documents and fascinating photographs. This romantic English Tudor Manor style palace is set in the resplendent Neuer Garten. Tour the music salon, the original bedroom of the royal family and the smoking room.
The Sanssouci Palace – Sanssouci – meaning without worries in French – was the lavish summer palace of the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great. Built in the 1700s, the rococo designed palace is perched majestically overlooking some 700 acres of terraced vineyards, manicured royal gardens, marble sculptures, gushing fountains and sprawling promenades, as well as an original Chinese tea house. Be sure to book your time slotted ticket to tour the palace well in advance and get in well before lunchtime during the week. You can also see Frederick the Great’s tomb on one of the highest terraces closest to the palace itself.
The Bridge of Spies was renamed from its original Glienicke Bridge after an exchange of a Russian agent for a US pilot in 1962. Its origins go back as far as the Cold War and have a cryptic history. Straddling the Havel River, the Glienicke Bridge was the integral connection between West Berlin, which was occupied by the US and Potsdam in the East which was soviet occupied. The main function of the bridge was to exchange secret agents and Cold War spies between the two locations.
The Dutch Quarter or Hollaenderviertel is the community right in the very heart of the city of Potsdam, commissioned by Frederick the Great, who had the houses in the quarter built for Dutch craftsmen and artisans who were invited to make their home and settle here by the King himself. Built in the 18th century, there are some 130 houses built in traditional Dutch style – white shutters, red brick facades and distinctive Dutch gables, all nestled on the edges of curvy cobbled streets. Listed as a World Heritage site you can now enjoy some of the sidewalk cafes, boutiques and restaurants that have found homes here.
The Gedenk- und Begegnungsstätte Ehemaliges KGB-Gefängnis Potsdam is the former KGB prison in Potsdam and is now a memorial site to the same. It was occupied by soviet forces during the war and today is an exhibition showcasing the grounds as a prison for counterintelligence. A stark and harsh reminder of the consequences of dictatorships, it is open during the spring and summer months every year.
The Russian Colony Alexandrowka is just outside of the middle of Potsdam. Built by the Prussian King in 1827, the 13 wooden houses were residence to the Russian singers of the First Prussian Regiment of the Guards. What is fascinating is that some of the original family descendants continue to live in these historic homes today. Quaint fruit and vegetable gardens surround the homes and there is a Russian teahouse and Russian Orthodox chapel in the colony as well.
The Filmpark Babelsberg is an historic movie theme park, proudly showcasing the very first German expressionist film in the world that was made here at Film Babelsberg studios. Here you can enjoy a line-up of exciting shows and theatre throughout the year.
Shopping in Potsdam
There are some great shopping opportunities here in Potsdam. Check out the middle of Babelsberf and Potdam Alstadt and enjoy the baroque quarters. Plenty of places to meander around, lots of tucked away courtyards that are home to upmarket boutiques, high end fashion and quaint shops and stores. You can make your way on foot to the Dutch Quarter – Hollandische Viertel and enjoy a cocktail at one of the swish pubs or cocktail bars, stroll around the galleries, shop at the sidewalk stores or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants. There are plenty of malls in downtown Potsdam – exciting enough to delight the most discerning of retail enthusiasts.
If you like markets then don’t miss the weekly ones at Weberplatz and Bassinplatz. There are lots of seasonal gourmet delights from fresh pike, ripe cherries and asparagus.
Eating Out in Potsdam
Cuisine in Potsdam is distinctive of the simple, nutritious and delicious traditional menu specialties of Brandenburg. The unofficial national food staple is the potato, brought into the region by the King of Prussia – Friedrich the Great. There are many dishes that are potato based and almost all dishes have a side of something made from potatoes. Locally grown, sourced, produced and consumed, Potsdam cuisine is very much influenced by biodiversity, with more than 80% of their entire menus in restaurants and homes being home grown.
Potsdam is blessed with an abundance of nearby lakes and rivers, providing a fresh source of pike, lamprey, eel, crayfish, carp and walleye as some of the menu favorites throughout the city. Local forests are a lush source of porcini mushrooms, chestnuts and chanterelle. Be prepared to wash every meal down with a generous helping of mouth-watering German beer.
Feast on potato pancakes, sausage and sauerkraut and wash it down with a few frothy glasses of Bavarian beer while relaxing on a cobbled walk way in the Dutch Quarters which offers great Indonesian and Dutch food and watching the people pass by on the travels. And experience the very best Germany has to offer.
Nightlife in Potsdam
There is plenty going on here in Potsdam at night if you can haul yourself off the hotel couch after all that beer and sauerkraut at lunchtime. It is slightly less wild than the never ending parties of Berlin, but you can’t miss out a chance to boogie here in Potsdam. There are lots of pubs to chill out at, enjoy a few beers and a legendary burger or two, like the popular Hafthornm which has a great biergarten open in the summer time.
La Leander is a fantastic upmarket coffee bar, well known as catering for the gay scene, but a fantastic place to relax and enjoy early evening sun downers and everybody – gay or not, are very welcome. There are some traditional clubs where you can go dancing after dinner and drinks, complete with big name DJs and a good party scene that will take you into the wee hours.
The Baumbluntenfest – Werder – Every year in this quaint, gorgeous and charismatic little town complete with a small island and glittering lake, you could be forgiven for thinking you have walked into a fairy tale picture book. The Werder Wine Festival is held in Werder, just outside the city of Potsdam, to celebrate spring as the fruit trees blossom – rows and rows of sour cherry trees, from which the wine is made, has exploded into flowers and the party is on. Cobbled stone streets, some 700 000 people, a carnival and much, much sweet wine just waiting to be consumed.
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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