What do you do with a barge that is lying in an old arm of the Rhine that basically only has scrap value, but also has a history that is something like a landmark of a small town like Bad Honnef? We’re talking about “ Aranka „, an eel shokker. You have to have an idea, a committed family and friends who are willing to work hard for the idea. The idea: to save the boat before it was sold to Holland and to restore it. And when you’re ready and have the money together, a lot of money, then it’s not far from the Eel King of Bad Honnef . It almost sounds like a fairy tale. And it is also a story that fits our republic and the social market economy: the strong help the weak. 500,000 euros have been raised over the years, money that flows into the city’s youth work, serves to prevent violence and helps refugees integrate.
But let’s start with „Aranka“. The Aalschokker , without engine or sails, has a long history behind it. It was built in the Netherlands in 1917, a year before the end of the First World War. The boat is 16 meters long, 5.60 meters wide and weighs 30 tons, so it is not a paddle boat. I took the information from the Aranka flyer, which continues: „The ship is anchored in the river, its fishermen cast large fishing nets overnight that span the entire depth of the river.“ Fishing played an important role on the Rhine back then and people lived from it. There was “a golden craft associated with the eel fish”; eel, salmon, allis shad and sturgeon were caught. Trapped in the Rhine. This tradition has been documented since 1780, according to the flyer. In the 1980s, professional fishing on the Rhine was stopped. Consequence: ten years later the “Aranka” was to be sold to Holland. And this is where our story begins.
The Herb King of Osnabrück
The Bad Honnef merchant Helmut Klos wanted to keep the Aalschokker in his homeland; he associated many childhood memories with the boat. And together with the Honnef Kur- und Verkehrsverein we managed to buy and restore “Aranka” with donations from the public and the NRW Foundation. The Aranka association emerged from the slogan “Keep Aranka afloat”. Friedhelm Ost remembers the beginnings. He had gained experience as a “Krautkönig” near Osnabrück. There were already other kings in the Rhineland, shooting kings, wine queens, rose queens. So he invented the story about the monks on Nonnenwerth who caught eels, Nonnenwerth, which is basically next door. The idea was born, it only had one small flaw: there were nuns on the island of Nonnenwerth, but no monks. So be it. What don’t you do for a good cause?!
The proceeds from the first festival were used to transport “Aranka” to the shipyard and have it fixed there. The second Eel King Festival brought profits and the motto was born: „Aranka brings help.“ Til today.
Help that today benefits youth work in this small but very beautiful town on the banks of the Rhine, below the vineyards and the Drachenfels. The first Eel King was crowned in 2003: Wolfgang Clement, then super minister for economics and labor in the red-green cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). The incumbent Eel King is Andreas Pinkwart (FDP), NRW Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy, who will be the first king to rule for two years, as this year’s Eel King Ball has been canceled due to the corona pandemic. In between lie the royal times of the Regents and Regents Lothar Späth, Konrad Beikircher, Friedrich Merz, Peer Steinbrück, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Rudolf Seiters, Jean-Claude Juncker, Theo Waigel, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Christian Lindner, Wolfgang Bosbach, Eckart von Hirschhausen, Rosi Mittermaier, Maybrit Illner and Malu Dreyer. Truly royal splendor surrounded and surrounds the world of the eel on the Rhine.
Donations arrive in full
So no Eel King Festival this year. But so that the social projects in the city, which are partly financed by the proceeds of the festival, are not jeopardized, the makers of the Eel King in Bad Honnef hired Friedhelm Ost, who the readers of the Blog-der-Republik liked for his contributions about economics, Knowing work and social issues very well, you can think of something special. Fabian Ost, the son of the former Kohl government spokesman, organized an Aranka challenge. Content: Running, cycling, rowing, hiking, making music for a good cause. Over 10,000 euros were raised in a short time. A sensational result, donations ranging from ten to over 1000 euros were collected, the so-called little man donated, the medium-sized company donated, even if the cash register is not as full as usual this year because of Corona, the little man paid and the one with the slightly larger wallet. Typically Bad Honnef. Fabian Ost was enthusiastic: „It shows what can be achieved when many people pull together.“ And one more thing: The donations arrive here in full, without any costs for bureaucracy, expenses or travel.
For years, the „Aranka“ has been a movable monument that can also be used for small celebrations and weddings – for a donation. On Memorial Day you can take a small motorboat over to the „Aranka“ and see how the boatmen once lived, how crowded it was below deck, in the cabin. Pictures on the walls give an impression of life with and of the eel. The visit is worth it, the Aranka is located in the Old Rhine Valley below the old steel bridge , which is covered with a concrete shell and which spans the arm of the Old Rhine and leads to the island of Grafenwerth. Aranka is a Hungarian girl name and means „gold“. Please don’t tempt anyone to enter there by force. It would only damage what actually needs to be preserved. A monument for everyone.
500,000 euros in 17 years in a small town like Bad Honnef. I call that a “oomph.” I hope Olaf Scholz won’t blame me for the plagiarism. You don’t have to look to Berlin to see what can be achieved when committed citizens get involved. Recommended for imitation.
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