ROK is going Dutch again. This time we had a chat with the parttime teacher/tourguide Sietske Carati.
Hello Sietske! Please introduce yourself!
My name is Sietske Carati and I’m from Oss, the Netherlands. I have more than one profession. I start the week as a geography teacher at a lyceum, and I finish the week as a primary school teacher for the 12 year olds, who are about to leave the school. And on top of that I’m a tour guide in Iceland for the Dutch travel company “Askja reizen”.
When did you visit Iceland for the first time and how was your maiden trip?
Already at a very young age I was eager to go to Iceland, I don’t know why, it’s just the way it was. Series as ‘Nonni og Manni’ only triggered those feelings.
In 1999 my partner and I saved enough to make a 3-week trip around the island. It felt like coming home to me. I was blown away with its beauty, roughness and open space. We camped and had great weather, hiked everywhere and on top of it we saw the northern lights the two nights before we had to leave. It was halfway August by then. I remember picking up the photos from the store (I took 23 films with me, that was a lot in those days) and I felt devastated, as this was not what I had experienced at all. It took me some time to figure out that it’s pretty hard to capture Iceland’s desolated, wide landscape. Now I treasure those pictures. A lot has changed since then.
How many times did you go back to Iceland (as a tourguide)? Finest moment during your trips? Odd or weird moments?
If you had told me back in 1999 that I would become a regular visitor, I wouldn’t have believed you. But luckely for me things went as they went and I became a tour guide in 2001. I started with a 3 week tour with a lot of hiking and sleeping in sleeping bag accommodations or huts. I treasure those days; hiking in the interior in complete silence, cuddling up in my sleeping bag with my mp3 with Icelandic music at night in the mountain huts.
I don’t know how many times exactly I visited Iceland but it’s safe to say more than 25 times, both on private trips or as a guide,
I’ve met a lot of interesting people in those years and I’ve made some great and wild trips. Two are on top of my list. In 2009 an Icelandic friend arranged a daytrip for me. Her dad would pick me up and show me some places I hadn’t seen before. What she didn’t tell was that he owned a Chevy ’58. I felt like a queen. I will never forget that we had to stop at a gasoline station to fill up and al the drivers looking up to see the car. At that moment I noticed a familiar face. An Icelandic friend of me was there as well…could you imagine the look on his face when I stepped out of the car? Anyway, mission completed. Saw some areas that I hadn’t seen before. A breathtaking trip in great company.
Another treasure was during the eruption at Fimmvörðuháls in 2010. It’s my shortest trip as well. 28 hours… but who cares? I phoned a driver I knew to ask if he had plans to drive up there as well, and asked me to save a seat for me. Booked a ticked, flew in and we drove off. A car packed with 4 Icelanders, an American author and me. We spend as long as 5 hours at the eruption side and ended this magnificent show with northern lights on top of it. Back at the hotel I could catch two hours of sleep before I had to catch the bus back to the airport. In the plane all people were talking about the eruption (but no one went up!) and just after taking off a lady next to me shouted: “Look I can see the eruption!” I helped her out of her dream and told her that steam was from the Blue Lagoon.
And so I can go on and on… Never a dull day!
Your first contact with Icelandic music was a gig of Björk at Noorderlicht venue (Tilburg) in the late 90s, right? In a venue called aurora borealis !
Yes, that’s true! I looked it up and it was actually already in 1993. I was a student then and I studied in Tilburg. I never will forget that gig. It was great and in a great venue as well. She started immediately with “Human behavior” followed with “I play dead”. After that she told everyone who just came for those two songs (big hits those days) they could leave. She made me crack up!
After the ‘Noorderlicht’ gig, I saw her some more times at “Pinkpop Festival” at Landgraaf, The Netherlands. Always something to look out for as you could expect something unexpected.
What makes Iceland and Icelandic music so special to come back and back and back? I know people who went once, and never will go back again!
Describe it that is hard. It just fits to the occasion. It’s like a perfect coat in the desolate landscape. Sometimes they are raw and harsh, sometimes smooth and soft. Songs pop up in my head during hikes. And when in town there’s hardly a place to find without music. Some songs draw my attention immediately. I then just ask which song it is and try to find it on Spotify or Soundcloud. A lot has to do with emotions and memories.
Do you speak (some) Icelandic (by now)? Do you have any plans to learn it?
Unfortunately not. I know a lot of words (especially food and drinks related as I had to buy stock during our trips, and geographic names) and thanks to some friend who post things on the Internet both English and Icelandic. I am well aware that I’m not gifted with learning a language quickly. As much as I love to learn the language, but it’s a very difficult one.
The best live gig(s) you’ve seen by an Icelandic musician/band? In Iceland or abroad?
I haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of Icelandic musicians live. Over here I’ve seen Björk, Emilíana Torrini and Ásgeir, In Iceland I occasionally bump into events.
The best so far is Emilíana Torrini. I just love her voice and the ease she seems to have in singing.
Are you an avid collector of (Icelandic) music?
Absolutely and there’s a huge variety in it as well. That has mainly to do with what I told before. I hear songs that I like, go after them and save them on Spotify or Soundcloud. For me they are musical memories. And the diversity runs from Amabadama, Bubbi Morthens, Forgotten Lores, Kaleo, Skálmöld, Emilíana Torrini and of course a lot in between.
Oh, and I’d like to mention that there’s also Icelandic music that I really don’t like at all, in case you might think I just collect because it’s Icelandic. Sorry I won’t name them
Name some of your favourite bands, albums, songs?
When I’m driving my friends around in winter I love to listen to Ásgeir (in Icelandic of course) in the car. I noticed that pretty much all my friends like it a lot and it fits. As I told you before I am very fond of Emilíana Torrini. Over all I mostly listen to my own inimitable playlist.
Do you have an all time favourite video?
“Human behaviour” by Björk and pretty much all Sigur Rós’ videos. “Hoppipolla” and “Sæglópur” are on top of that list. From Emilíana Torrini I like “Sunny Road” very much. Someone posted that one on my MySpace wall and that was the first I saw and heard from her.
Do you have a favorite hang-out spot(s) in Reykjavík?
Seems that I don’t have that anymore. I was a regular visitor at ‘Tíu Drópar’ since 1999. But they had to close this summer. Besides that I hang around in Babalú or Café Haiti.
What is/are your favorite spot(s) outside Reykjavík?
Anywhere remote basically. On top of my “hiking area” list are Kerlingarfjöll, Askja, and the Westfjords. Mountains, deserted inland or seaside: I like it all.
Favorite Icelandic food & drinks? Other things you like? Or dislike? Favorite shops?
Well I’m Dutch so I like the lakkrís things a lot. The combination with chocolate I hardly can resist. Besides that I pretty much like all quirky Icelandic stuff. On my shopping list there’s always harðfiskur (dried fish) and hákarl (shark) and smoked trout from Geiteyjarströnd (I found some locations in Reykjavík that sell that specific one, love it!).
I was in Iceland just the other weekend and I ended up with two kilos of extra luggage. All from the food department
When I’m over I love to eat lobster soup, kjötsúpa (meatsoup), smoked lamb and of course a pylsur (Icelandic hotdog) when on the road.
Something that you want to add?
Well, just thanks for asking. Never a dull moment when I have to think about Iceland or Icelandic music!
Takk Sietske, hope to see you in Iceland!
– Wim Van Hooste