A Hungarian community lives freely in Tenerife, in a barren area next to the airport, in cave dwellings carved into a hillside, or as they call them, “Rabbit Holes”. How did they get there, how do they live, and what is their purpose?
Utazómajom news portal interviewed the colony leader, Pálmester, to find the answers. The conversation revealed many exciting pieces of information about the life and activities of this small Hungarian community.
When was the last time you visited Hungary?
In the summer of 2019. I usually return to Hungary in the summer to visit my mom and friends and to help build the S.U.N. festival.
How did it all start, where did the idea to live in cave dwellings in Tenerife come from?
In the summer of 2011, I decided to “maverick”, because I no longer wanted to work as an engineer in Hungary. I travelled by hitchhiking in southwestern Europe, spending a lot of time in Spain. Then, after being encouraged by these experiences and accounts of my friends in the Canary Islands, I decided to spend my next “winter” here with my sweetheart at the time. In the summer of 2013, we found the old cave dwellings that had been abandoned for a long time. I have been thinking for many years to find or build a home, a community space, and this terrain seemed perfect for my plan.
Did you live in a paid accommodation, and then, after finding the cave dwellings on a trip, did you simply move there the next day?
No. Since I left with a friend in the direction of Barcelona in August 2011, we didn’t pay for accommodation. I haven’t paid for housing ever since. We used to sleep in a tent or a hammock. Many times it was uncomfortable, but I am an experienced hiker, and I have already slept many times outside in nature anyway.
We volunteered at a place that wasn’t going well, but it was too trashy and boring, so we were looking for an alternative, and then we found the caves. Not long after that, we started cleaning them up and moved in soon.
How do you sustain yourself?
We basically follow a freegan lifestyle. Most of the things we use are things that others have already thrown away or want to throw out, so it is unnecessary to them. We spend money on very few things. I definitely live better out of the trash, garbage here than I could at home as an engineer. Plus, I’m my own master, I don’t harm anyone – I can’t say that about my previous work. Almost all of us do something to make some money to meet individual needs: we help acquaintances with construction and renovation, or we sell discarded, functional or repaired things, but we often craft or juggle. And of course, some do “normal” work because that kind of work can also be found here if somebody wants to be occupied.
How is everyday life there?
It is quite varied. Every day is different. We are in a state between community life and vacation, with plenty of opportunities.
Is there democracy among you? Are there mandatory tasks?
Yes, we decide democratically, by vote, on important issues, about our rules and our projects. We have our basic rules, as well as everyday tasks that we have to do almost every day and that have to be shared, like bringing food, bringing water, collecting firewood, cleaning the kitchen and the yard, tidying up the toilet, cleaning in the warehouse (go through the stored food and assort it), cooking for the community (usually dinner is the main meal, where everybody participates), taking out the trash, cleaning up the caves – these are the basics. Still, there are other things to do, such as gardening, community building, repairs, decorating work, internet or official activity.
Why doesn’t this bother local authorities? Do they know about you at all?
Of course they know about us. We are clean and tidy, we are pacifists, we do not steal, we do not sell drugs, and those who have problems among us are sent away. I am sure the authorities are familiar with our project, Kids Of The Sun, which aims to run a non-profit cultural community that strives for a sustainable life.
And what do the locals think about you? How do they relate to your community?
Many of them are a little scared of us because it may seem “abnormal” to live in a hole dug into the ground? But we have a good relationship with the locals, we already have a lot of local friends, and they really like what we do.
How do you solve your electricity and water needs?
We solve the electricity problem with a solar system. We can use 1-2 laptops and other smaller 230V gadgets during the day, and there is a 5V USB phone-power bank charging option, LED lighting, community hi-fi all day. We carry the drinking water, and we have a 1000 litre tank for domestic water. We can fill that, but we also carry the water from the mountain or from the taps of our friends in 8-litre bottles. Fortunately, we often get help from locals with cars. We collect rainwater as well, which can be used at buildings and the garden also likes it more than chlorinated tap water.
Have you ever felt in danger?
No, not really. It’s a safe place. As long as there is no “zombie apocalypse” or “mad max”, we don’t have to feel particularly in danger. There were two smaller fights in seven and a half years, but we finally managed to settle without problems. Once there was a fire in the yard too (possibly arson), but we solved that also. A bigger problem is that there is a lot of theft and burglary in the area. Although such worms tend to steal from the wealthy, for safety’s sake, there’s always someone home.
What are your long-term goals?
We want to continue our activities and realise our dream of building a non-profit cultural association.
Would you like the readers to visit you?
Not really. Firstly, we are not a holiday destination. Secondly, we cannot have many people now due to the viral situation, and thirdly, frequently, there are too many of us, and it can get uncomfortable. So we don’t really want tourists. On the other hand, yes, those interested in what we do and those who would like to participate (let’s call it volunteer work) for at least a month.
As we wrote before, some of the flights suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic were restarting in January and Tenerife as well was listed among the destinations. Read more about the list of renewed flights HERE.