Self-portrait and story by Rolf Brunner and Klara Koitler
Rolf: When I started, I gathered main working group of the Sarakiniko project. The project started because I’ve made it into Stern magazine. In those days, Stern was more influential than today. We managed to get on the cover, entitled Outsteppers. I have no idea why I had the wish to join the Sarakiniko. I just wanted to change my life. I use it to change my life. And it was easier to do that with a movement, with all the people. First, I just waited, I worked at my job for half a year, and the other half I was at Sarakiniko. But this life changed me. When I wanted to change my life, my guideline for changing was to go south. To stay in Europe. I was really open. At the beginning, the group had a different name, Pallagi. They wanted to buy the island of Atokos. The group had existed before. After they found out that it is not possible to buy Atokos, they fell apart. At that time, I went for a journey with other people, and I found a land. And I liked it so much that I made a private call option to buy it within 6 months. I needed only 1 DM million to buy it. I raised 2 million, and in September 1979 we bought the land. In the meantime, we established Sarakiniko alternatives Leben GmbH, which is the owner of the land.
Klara:The reason for me to come here was my working in Berlin. I heard Rolf speaking about this land on the radio. He had made a call option on this land at his own risk and then he had to find the people and the money within 6 months. So he had half a year to find people to fund what he bought. This is why he needed big publicity. I went to one of the group meetings. They showed us pictures of this land to gain our interest and get our contribution. In a local bar, there were a lot of men with beards, long hair, self-made piercings, they had hats and white shirts. They were completely different to the man on the stage(Rolf), who wanted to win them for founding the company and buying the land.
Rolf: So there were 200 people in the beginning, and we had to cut. Otherwise, we could have had 400. Today, there are still 70 owners, while two thirds of them left. And they got the money back. The problem with these people was that they had no money. I promised them I will return the money if they would not like to live there. Otherwise, they would have been scared to risk.
Klara: Later, Rolf got kicked out. The group changed their leader. There had been many groups working and fighting with each other. The activities of the beginning were not successful because there was no master plan where to go. So they “ate” the 1 million that had been left in Sarakiniko, and after that, many had left, but they got the money back.
Klara:He [Rolf] become a complete freak. Before, he was a manager trainer. He also founded the company where he worked. And then, he became a hippie. Rolf wrote a book titled How to criticize in a good way. He was really brave. I think that book is terrible. It says it is good to touch each other during a discussion. He thinks it is good for the situation. He really criticizes in a bad way. I don’t like it.
RolfI was 36 when I wrote it. The title was changed by the company. I titled it How to criticize sustainably, with breath. You cannot tell something beautiful and then say “but”. So I think maybe we should try to say it by nonverbal contact instead of using words. I can still relate to it. Today, I would find other words for the book, but the basics remain the same.
Rolf:At first, they slept in tents and they called themselves kitchen groups (8-10 people). Then, they started building houses. I separated, I left the project with a woman And then, in 1985, I came back, because there was no one on the land anymore. It was empty.
Klara: We also had a house in Exogy [an area on Ithaca], but Rolf wanted to sell it. But because it had no sea view, people didn't want to buy it. So I started to use it for studying. It was a very old house, built in 1872. I studied there for 15 years. You can see the roof of it from the valley. There are only 4 people living in Exogy. So I miss that house very much. But Rolf says that if we had kept that house, we wouldn’t have Ecotopia. He says the grass is always greener on the other side. I still think it is good to have the option to go away. It is good for relationship.
Ecotopia is a relatively new project, spanning across 37,500 m² of land that is for sale under certain conditions: no electricity and water from outside, small housing, no fences ... Rolf Brunner is the initiator and landowner of the project. He has lived on Ithaca since 1997: “After a successful career, I decided in 1997 to do something completely new. Since then, I have lived on this beautiful island of Ulysses. As a co-initiator of the well-known Sarakiniko-alternative-project and organizer of its development, I have rich experience in this kind of group dynamics. So now I want to bring all this knowledge together. Ecotopia will be a paradigm for a small but solid and sustainable model of living together.” Their main motto is Good neighborhood is possible. "Our time needs it. If the free landowners decide to follow some common rules and are willing to follow these rules because they created them by themselves, then Ecotopia is real." More at Ecotopia is a relatively new project, spanning across 37,500 m² of land that is for sale under certain conditions: no electricity and water from outside, small housing, no fences ... Rolf Brunner is the initiator and landowner of the project. He has lived on Ithaca since 1997: “After a successful career, I decided in 1997 to do something completely new. Since then, I have lived on this beautiful island of Ulysses. As a co-initiator of the well-known Sarakiniko-alternative-project and organizer of its development, I have rich experience in this kind of group dynamics. So now I want to bring all this knowledge together. Ecotopia will be a paradigm for a small but solid and sustainable model of living together.” Their main motto is Good neighborhood is possible. "Our time needs it. If the free landowners decide to follow some common rules and are willing to follow these rules because they created them by themselves, then Ecotopia is real." More at https://ecotopia.jimdo.com/.
Rolf: As for Ecotopia, I personally bought the land and I had no idea what to do with it. This was always on the verge of failing. I didn’t want to go on the island and I didn’t want to go to the land. Maybe I wanted to show people that it could work. Maybe, I am not sure. And this piece of land is beautiful. So far, the rules could be changed. Not to separate one plot from another with a fence, to keep them all together and make people feel they have one land together. And apart from that, you can do whatever you want to do with your piece. You can sell it without asking for permission. When you sell it, the new owner also has to follow the rules. These are: electricity must not come from the outside grid system; no roads and no cars to the land, only electric cars; and no fences. But now, it was necessary to change.
Rolf: It costs a lot of money to find privacy like we have it here. No noise, good weather, nice space, clear water. It costs millions. Not that long ago, this did not cost anything. But nowadays, people are looking for such places and want to pay for them. For example, one of the guys bought olive trees for 40,000 EUR and planted them there. Now he has a golf place there. And he is just one of them. There are few rich people here. Most of them go to Majorca or Ibiza. But the atmosphere is not the same. And houses are more expensive there.
Klara:I have gardens. Some tomatoes, some salads. You can have a garden here throughout the year. All you need is a lot of water. I think we do our part in connecting people. And people like the way we live. Many people stay here. It is good for Ithaca to have different kind of people with different ideas. Ithaca is the project.When I came here and opened a restaurant I was the first stranger and the first woman that started a business. Now, there are a lot of people from other countries living and working here. In case of the airport, it would be more and different people here. It is good for Ithaca that gives you a long way to come.I am more connected to people than I used to be, and people are becoming more open as well. There are other Greek islands where you can really be an outsider. Here, people are very tolerant. People didn’t understand why we left Germany. But now, they understand more. For the future, I wish we would never have an airport. Because in that case, there would be many tourists here.