Soest is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It used to be an important trade city during the Middle Ages and still has an outstandingly well-preserved old town with many historico-cultural sights.
Soest was first mentioned in a document dating from 836. It was located on the Hellweg, an important medieval traderoute, crossing Westphalia in a west-east direction. Soest’s town charter, noted on cowhides, was a model for the municipal laws of about 70 other towns in Germany.
During the Middle Ages, Soest became one of the most important and prosperous trade places in Central Europe and a principal member of the Hanseatic League. The town’s confident citizenry even tried to win their independence from the Archbishops of Cologne. This led to a five-year feud (Soester Fehde), during which an imperial ban was put on the town. The conflict ended with Soest becoming part of the Duchy of Kleve-Mark and receiving far-reaching privileges. But now it was surrounded by frontiers and cut off from its hinterland that still belonged to the Archbishops’ territory. Consequently, the city lost most of its economic affluence during the following decades and centuries, the merchants’ residences decayed and most citizens had to subsist on agriculture.
Under Prussian rule, Soest was made a county seat and major railway station, but—unlike most cities in the nearby Ruhr region—never developed major industries or population growth. The upside of this development (or rather lack thereof) is that the medieval townscape is mostly preserved and was not replaced by modern buildings.
Reaching Soest by train is easy, and the station is very close to the old town. Intercity trains from Weimar and Düsseldorf call several times per day; once a day, there is a direct link from Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. There are half-hourly regional trains from Hamm and Paderborn, hourly from Dortmund. Every two hours a regional train arrives from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Essen.
Soest is located on the Highway A 44 (Dortmund – Kassel).
Cheap Flights to Dortmund
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The old town is very compact (1.2 km from one end to the opposite). It is advisable to leave the car behind and walk, given the narrow lanes and many pedestrian zones.
The Regionalverkehr Ruhr-Lippe GmbH (RLG) operates eight local bus lines within the town (all of them connect to each other in front of the train station) and eleven regional bus lines that pass through Soest.
What to see and do
The historic old city (Altstadt) is interesting to wander about, and has a number of medieval churches and cathedrals. Most of them are built of the characteristic green sandstone that was quarried in the region.
- Remains of the medieval town fortification, including walls, moat and one of the formerly ten gates
- Burghof. Renaissance patrician house made from green sandstone, built in 1559/60, hosts a museum of town history; next to it is a Romanesque building dating from 1180, the oldest residential building of the wider region.
- Pilgrimhaus. Ancient inn, founded in 1304 – oldest inn in Westphalia
- Rathaus. Baroque town hall
- St. Peter’s Church (Alde Kerke). Consecrated in 1150, it is the town’s oldest church. A predecessor building had already existed in 800.
- St. Patroclus’ Cathedral (Patroklidom). Romanesque-style basilica
- St. Mary on the Meadow (Wiesenkirche). Perfectly structured Gothic hall church
- St. Mary on the Hill (Hohnekirche). Romano-Gothic hall church (one of the oldest hall churches in Westphalia)
- St. Paul’s Church. Gothic hall church with three bays
- Old St. Thomas’ Church (Alt St. Thomae, or “Schiefer Turm”). Early Gothic hall church, known for its leaning tower.
- Big pond in the middle of the old town with historical watermill and big seesaw that was used to plunge culprits in old times.
What to do
During the week around All Saints’ Day, Soest is in a “state of exception”. In five days, the town of 50,000 inhabitants receives one million visitors for its annual Allerheiligenkirmes (kermess)—Europe’s biggest funfair held in an old town (rather than on a separate site outside the town). The whole old town is transformed into a funfair area, hosting around 400 attractions, rides and stalls. Starts on Wednesday after All Saints’, ends on Sunday.
Local specialties include Pumpernickel—a heavy, slightly sweet rye bread, which is common all over Westphalia, but Soest claims to be the place of its invention; and Möpkenbrot—a coarse cooked sausage, made from bacon, pig’s head, pork rind, blood and rye grist.
A local brewery, Brauhaus Zwiebel. produces and serves pale, dark and wheat beer.
Bullenauge (“bull’s eye”) is a coffee liquor topped with a dash of cream. It is typically drunk during kermess. Dudelmann is a cordial that is exclusively served during kermess season. Beekeeper Amelunxen’s mead and honey liquor are typically associated with a visit to the All Saints’ funfair, as well.
Where to stay in Soest
- Hotel Stadt Soest, Brüder Straße 50. A pleasant place to stay and is very close to the railway station. It is in the old city. Double room for € 80–95.
Hotels Soest: Popularity
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|Hotel am Wall||★★★|
|La Alqueria de las Alpacas - Alpakas am Ardey|
|City Motel Soest||★★|
|Ferienwohnung Im Herzen der Stadt|
|DECK 8 DESIGNHOTEL.SOEST||★★★|
- Möhnesee (Moehne dam). The dam wall was breached during the second World War by RAF bombers in Operation Chastise, resulting in a huge floodwave that killed more than 1000 people (mostly foreign forced labourers). Nevertheless, the reservoir and its surrounding are a popular recreation area.
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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