Gamli Bærinn (Reykjahlíð, Iceland)

After our most succesful trip to Husavik for whale watching, we headed back down to the Myvatn area. It started to rain pretty heavily, but we still had a nice hike through Dimmuborgir. After seeing many cool lava formations, and be regaled with the stories of the Yule Lads. After some reading up on it from the various signs at Dimmuborgir, I learned that the Yule Lads are the result of a head-on collision between old Norse and Christian traditions: the Yule Lads are the sons of the mountain trolls (Grýla). Unlike the Grýla themselves (who search out and scare naughty children), the Yule Lads only come at Christmastime, and are more mischievous than anything else: they have names like door-slammer (Hurðaskellir), bowl-licker (Askasleikir), sausage-swiper (Bjúgnakrækir), and meat-hook (Ketkrókur, he looks down chimneys and steals roasting meat with a long hook). The supposed way to get the Yule Lads to leave you alone is for your parents to give you lots of clothing at Christmas. I swear I’m not making this up, this is from the signs at Dimmuborgir!

But after all that hiking, we were again a bit wet, a bit tired, and really wanted some dinner. While Vogafjós almost lured us in again, we decided to mix it up and try another of the area’s (very few) restaurants, Gamli Bærinn, a pub located next to the Hótel Reynihlíð.

Gamli Bærinn serves a nice niche, in that it’s probably the only casual, non-fast-food restaurant until you get to, say Husavik or Akureyri. It has a nice, inviting tavern interior, and basically offers beer and a small menu of pub grub (sandwiches, burgers, steaks), cooked on a small grill area behind the counter.

In a role reversal from lunch, Carol opted for the burger, while I opted for the soup. The resulting burger was quite good: it had an ample patty, cooked up with a nice crust on the outside and a very juicy medium-rare interior (which seems to be the default in Iceland, so I never had to look up how the Icelandic specify level of meat doneness). A nice set of fresh toppings, and a light flavored mayo, and this was a good overall burger, and a nice way to finish up a good day.

I ended up going with the soup, having had my own burger earlier in the day at Gamli Baukur. My selection was the tomato soup. Expecting just a general, not-to-exciting tomato soup, I instead found a homemade tomato soup which was very flavorful, smooth, and delicious (I suspect the tomatoes were from the giant tomato hothouses we saw on the way to Husavik). The fact that it came with plentiful bread and free refills made this all the more enjoyable.

Overall, we enjoyed Gamli Bærinn, it was a good pub in which to relax, drink a nice pint, and have a pleasant dinner in an inviting interior. I strongly suspect this place gets very busy during the high season, but for us it was just moderately busy. I’ll certainly give them another visit when I’m next in the Myvatn region.

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