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Saarbrucken | Covid-19 Travel Restrictions | Lockdown | Coronavirus Outbreak

Wolfgang Holzem

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Right in the heart of the Saar-Lor-Lux region in the centre of Saarland in Germany, will bring you to the capital city of Saarbrucken. Saarbrucken literally translates to Saar bridges, which would make sense, since there are at least a dozen or so bridges here that sweep over the Saar River, although not many people are convinced that this is the origin of the name of the city as the Alte Brucke predates the name by more than 500 years.

Germany | Covid-19 Travel Restrictions | Lockdown | Coronavirus Outbreak
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21,934
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80,387
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Seeped in history, there is evidence of a rich, if somewhat checkered past for the city, with roots going as far back as the Roman Empire in the last centuries BC. Evidence of its strong inclination to France is evident everywhere, in the enchanting cobbled alley ways, St. Johanner Market Square and the charismatic, historic architecture tucked in and around modern infrastructure that dominates the sweeping panorama of this major state capital city.

It was a bustling mining town at the turn of the 19th Century, with major economic resources in coal and iron, but a number of events including the Franco Prussian War and World War II – among others, brought the rich mining reserves to its knees from exploitation and destruction.

These days, the city is tenaciously emerging from its stagnation as a neglected mining town and has soared though leaps and bounds earning itself a righteous place as one of the most integral German centers for science, technology and research. Rich in culture, history and the most glorious surroundings, the city is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist hot spots this side of France.

The Best Time to Go to Saarbrucken

The mild to cool climate of Saarbrucken makes it an all year round destination – even in the chilly winter months. There are festivals and events taking place every month of the year, during every season, so the only thing you will need to take into account when deciding which is the best time to go is the weather and the amount of other people you are willing to contend with.

Summer time when the weather is warm, during the months of June, July and August, the city tends to fill up with plenty of locals and visitors who are out and about enjoying the sunshine. You can expect to pay more for flights and accommodation then, as well as stand in long queues to get into sights and attractions.

Winter time is also busy as Germany has extra special Christmas markets and celebrations at the end of the year. The best time to go if you would still like to enjoy the good weather without putting too much of a dent in your pocket would be during spring – March/April/May or during fall – September/October. The weather isn’t too hot or cold, the hordes have gone back home to work and to school and the prices have taken a bit of a dip, so you can get a bit more for your money around these times of the year.

Getting Around in Saarbrucken

The city of Saarbrucken has an excellent public transport system consisting of a combination of trams and buses. And, because of this, when visiting the city, there is no need to hire a car. The tram system or light rail train system is part of a dual transport system called the SaarBahn. The tram or light rail train travels from out of Saarbrucken right through to France. Don’t be put off by its seemingly rickety and slow pace as it travels in the midst of the city, because as it gets out of the city it speeds up and zips along quite quickly. You can hop on the train every 8 minutes as a new tram pulls into the station, or if you are traveling at night, you will have to wait 15 minutes. The schedules are clearly displayed next to each train stop.

To supplement the light rail train system, there is a fantastic bus system which is on precise German time and absolutely never, or hardly every slightly late or too early. Tickets for both the bus and the light rail trains are part of the same SaarBahn system so you will only need one ticket to use both.

A group day ticket or weekly ticket may save you money as you will have all round access to every stop, it just depends how long you intend to stay.

Major Attractions and Sights

The Alte Brücke or Old Bridge is without a doubt one of the oldest constructions seen anywhere in the city. Built in 1546 by Charles V, it is the bridge connection that joins St. Johann and Alt-Saarbrucken. The original bridge has some 13 arches, but sadly during WWII much of the bridge was destroyed, leaving only 8 arches behind. It was rebuilt after the war, but then again shortened, making way for modern infrastructure.

Saarbergwerke – The Saar Mining Company administration offices.  What was originally known as the Royal Prussian Mining Headquarters, the admin offices was a Renaissance-revival architectural masterpiece erected in the late 1800s. Beautifully restored, it now forms part of the majestic shopping centre – Europa Galerie.

Europa Galerie is the historical building located right in front of the main train station and has been created from the original Saarbergweke. The original tiled floors, windows and stairs provide a dramatic backdrop to just over 100 stores, cafes and restaurants.

The Basilica St. Johann was built in the mid 1700s and has been beautifully restored to its former glory as an 18th Century baroque regal dame. Given the title by non-other than the Pope himself, the church was named Basilica Minor and not without good reason. The bronze entrance area and dramatic and legendary church organs – which are still played today, bring visitors from all over the world to experience the church and its glorious music.

The Castle Wall was another pinnacle landmark that has also been moved to make way for modern infrastructure – in this case an urban highway. Even though it has been shifted some 16 meters, the breathtaking views at the top of the wall have not been compromised.

Fröschengasse is the area where homes were once built on to the old town wall in a settlement for workers and craftsmen. Rebuilt after the war, starting in the late 1970s, there are a number of charming and quaint restaurants here now, all in the original baroque styled buildings. Check out the high water level marks that have been recorded on a wall – as a stark reminder of the dances of the river.

Saarbrücken Castle has roots that go as far back as 999, when it held the name Castellum Sarabrucca. Sadly due to the destruction of war and fire, only the original cellars of the castle remain, although it was remarkably and magnificently restored in the late 1980s. Now the modern day host to cultural events and festivals, the castle is one part of this magical city that must not be missed.

Stiftskirche St. Arnual or as it is known – The urban village – is actually one of the oldest sections of the city. A leisurely walk of half an hour from the middle of the city will bring you to a charismatic medieval village cluster set in the original market square. See architecture, buildings and churches from as far back as the 13th century and see the mausoleums of the 15 century princes.

Shopping in Saarbrucken

The city of Saarbrucken is widely known for its delightful shopping and retail delights. People come from all over and many from France, to shop here at the premier retail mile starting at the historic St. Johanner Market place. There is a vast variety of goods all throughout the city. You can meander along the quaint twisty courtyards of Old Town, enjoy the ambience, put your feet up and enjoy a good coffee on a cobbled sidewalk, browse some of the tucked away boutiques and pick up some real quirky bargains along the way.

The big shopping center – The Saar Galerie has been refurbished to incorporate the town’s biggest shopping street, the Bahnhofstraße.

Eating Out in Saarbrucken

Traditional cuisine in Saarbrucken is known for its simple, yet hearty and rich meals with distinctive French and German influences. Sprouting from the days during the mining and farming peak, locals needed their food to be easily available, affordable and energy sustaining to provide them with the calories they needed for a hard day’s work in the mine or the fields. You will still find lots of potato dishes on any Saarbrucken meal table.

When it comes to modern day food and cuisine, the locals are very much in favor of their type of outdoor grilling – Schwenkbraten. In a manner similar to a rotisserie, a Schwenkbraten grill swings meat backwards and forwards over a fire in order to cook it evenly. What is also common is the propensity to mix savory and sweet dishes for a main course – like Bohnensuppe (bean soup) served with plum cake or apple cake served with Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup).

Because the country of Saarland is home to Karlsberg, you can bet your boots you will be washing every meal down with a generous helping of lager. Try the Haus Bruk which has a fantastic selection of regional dishes, great service, warm atmosphere, good wine and good value for money. Schlossgarten is a widely renown small but excellent restaurant. Incredible and unusual dishes, fantastic wine, excellent hosts and should be at the top of everybody’s list.

Several Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants are based in Saarbrucken.

Nightlife in Saarbrucken

There is so much going on Saarbrucken that there is something for everyone to enjoy. From a cultural point of view, you are literally spoilt for choice, with opera, theatre, ballet, dance, cabaret and fringe shows and music events and shows on right throughout the year. If you are here to party you won’t be disappointed, with plenty of bars, cafes and clubs around, that offer you good party vibes where ever you choose to go.

There are lots of lively cocktail bars to start an evening of good solid revelry off, and even a Vodka Bar. Ovid Vodka Bar has some 300 different vodkas for you to sample – not necessarily all on one night, and great to sit outside for summer. You can see the wall listings of each and every single vodka, together with their countries of origin. Try the banana beer and the Van Gogh’s double espresso vodka, but give the Israel Bread Vodka a miss.

Summer time is fantastic here when the weather is warm, and you can enjoy a chilled beer under the generous leafy shade of one of the many sidewalk cafes or traditional biergartens in and around the city. Many places open late and stay open much later to accommodate the party crowd on weekends.

The Garage is the ultimate club and dance venue, with some great rock music and the best place to dance the night away. 3 huge stages with a brilliant vibe will make you want to party till dawn.

Of Local Interest

Women’s Carnival Weiverfassenacht– February Every Year

This historic and traditional street carnival has roots way back when in the 1800s when the carnival was exclusively open to be celebrated by men only. Today it is closely associated with the revolt of the Beueler Washerwomen in an event dating back to 1823. Held on the last Thursday before Carnival and on the last Saturday of the Carnival where there is a fantastic line up of live music acts and festivities.

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Former founder of Asiarooms.com and now reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as Thailand, Germany & Switzerland. Born near Cologne but lived in Berlin during my early teenage years. A longterm resident of Bangkok, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phuket. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Now based on Mallorca, Spain.

Germany

Wirecard : How Jan Marsalek Friend Henry O’Sullivan became “Corinna Müller”

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Henry OSullivan

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.

How those involved initially adhered to the language regulation became apparent on March 4, 2020. When O’Sullivan allegedly canceled an appointment in Monaco due to Corona entry regulations from Singapore, Marsalek’s assistant wrote to the auditors at KPMG: “Ms. Müller is herself aware of the time pressure and has agreed to contact us tomorrow with a short-term alternative. “

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.

O’Sullivan also appears at another important point in the Wirecard network, the so-called third-party business. Wirecard achieved a large part of its sales with it, at least according to the balance sheet. Essentially, three companies provided the supposed income: Pay Easy from the Philippines, Al Alam from Dubai and Senjo from Singapore.

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 credit for companies in a tax haven

Marsalek did not reply in writing, but less than a month later he informed him why O’Sullivan’s company had not paid the money back on the agreed date. “The delay resulted from an unexpected complication in the distribution of dividends from one of its holdings.” O’Sullivan believes that the problem “will be resolved in the next few days,” wrote Marsalek.

Wexeler was evidently unsure of the loan. He asked: “It would still be important to know how the money that we made available to him was invested.” There is no answer to this, but that Marsalek suddenly advocated the loan “just days later” long-term “.

The borrower, Cottisford Holdings Ltd., also comes from an island that is likely to be O’Sullivan’s favorite vacation destination, as the British Virgin Islands are a paradise not only for tourists, but also for lovers of lax tax rules.

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Wirecard Scandal claims another Victim – Heike Pauls from Commerzbank

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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.

 

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Wirecard Committee – Doubts about Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s Credibility

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Wirecard Committee Doubts about 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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