Sunday, May 18, 2008


When my Sweetie and I were last in Iceland *March 2008* we were walking around downtown Reykjavik down by the City Center, I saw this sign and of course, because of what I thought was a raven (it has crossed-out eyes and I think looks knocked out drunk) I had to take the picture. Here in retrospect is some information about the sign, of which I was very curious about. Unfortunately it was closed. Maybe the next time we are there, we will drop in when it is open for business.

Gaukur - Cuckoo
Stöng - Bar
Five young men just returning from studies in Germany had the idea of opening Iceland's first authentic pub. It was the first real pub in Iceland, but at that time beer drinking was illegal in Iceland and instead people out on the nightlife drank a drink called "bjórlíki" (artificial beer) a thrilling mixture of Vodka and Pilsner (which is the Icelandic word for non alcoholic beer).


Imitation beer became an instant sensation, and other pubs cropped up like mushrooms in midtown Reykjavik as well as others parts of the country. On March 1, 1989 the ban on beer was lifted. Imitation beer was launched, and Iceland's first local pub became a reality.


With time the place has become the cornerstone of Icelandic music- and nightlife, most of Iceland's most popular bands played their first gig at Gaukur á Stöng and many of Iceland's finest party animals have spent their leisure time there and still do.


According to one account, the pub was named Gaukur á Stöng after Gaukur Trandilsson from Stöng in Þjórsárdalur valley. There was a ancient Saga written about him but it has long since been lost. Only his name remains, which point to the likelihood that he and the house wife on the nearby farm of Steinastöðum were lovers.

Stöng was abandoned, as were others farms in Þjórsárdalur, after Mt. Hekla erupted in 1104. Many interesting artifacts were discovered when the farm was excavated by archaeologists in 1939. The farm was used as the model for the Independence Day farm, raised in Þjórsárdalur in 1974 on the 1100th anniversary of the Settlement of Iceland.

On the lower section of Þjórsárdalur, juts Gaukshöfði promontory into the Þjórsár River. In the 19th century spear heads and human bones were found under the promontory, and speculation was that they were the remains of Gaukur Trandilsson.

The building that houses Gaukur á Stöng was raised in 1924 by the fishing company H.F. Sleipnir and the land was owned by harbour fund. The building was described at the time as being built out of bricks and cinder blocks with a corrugated roof.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

A drunk cuckoo?

G-Man said...

Someplace in Iceland?

"The Dancing Eagle?"

"The Happy Condor"?

hehehehe...G

Tom & Icy said...

I stayed all night there once and had the strangest dreams because I couldn't understand a word they were saying.

Ariel the Thief said...

Terry, I was here last night, saw the writing and decided to come back to read because it was too late already. But the writing is gone. I can remember some German students starting a pub, the first real pub in Iceland, and Icelandic nonalcoholic beer is vodka mixed with whiskey? I decided I am half asleep and having nightmares. :-) Please put the writing back, it just started to get interesting!

Ariel the Thief said...

"Pilsner (which is the Icelandic word for non alcoholic beer)" - ROTFL! I like lager beers, though.

Sorry about the lost saga!

tsduff said...

Anonymous - I think you've got it!

Galen - How did you know? Ha ha - it does rather look like a condor - complete with a smile on his unconscious beak...

Tom & Icy - I bet you did understand them - until you woke up.

Ariel - Okay okay I'll put it back. I took the writing off because it was rather long, and I figured nobody would have time to read it anyway. Now go back to sleep :)

SOe said...

Interesting story! We Germans and our beer! We cann´t life without it (okay, I can)!

Fred said...

Sounds like my kind of place. We Americans love our beer, too!

Dr.John said...

A Cuckoo bar. What a strange name. Not too many of those birds around.

Minka said...

awwwwwww...good memories from that place. I took a dare and kissed my first girl there ;)

actonbell said...

LOL, Tom:) Beer history! Vodka and Pilsner--very interesting! (and alcoholic)

Anonymous said...

That was a nice day---think we were at the swap meet that day also---xoxo gb

Doug said...

Beer was illegal but not vodka? Or girls kissing? Explain.

Anonymous said...

good morning good morning--may the day be filled with peace---xoxo gb

tsduff said...

SOe - You Germans do seem to know how to enjoy the drink of the hops :) Step over here, I'll play you "The Beer Barrel Polka".

Fred - Down in your hot clime you need some cold refreshment.

Dr. John - Perhaps if you go to Australia you will see some cuckoos. I have never seen one so relaxed though as the one on the sign.

Minka - How did we miss going to this place when we were there? That's the thing with pilsner and vodka - one might become a little crazy and take a dare or two... heh heh.

Actonbell - I thought of you when I heard about beer history :) Their pilsner is really near beer.

Anonymous - yes, and we saw a whole lot of Icelandic second hand "stuff". You are nice to wander with xxx.

Doug - In Iceland many things are uh - well, not the same as we know them ;)... magical. Anything is possible.

Anonymous - miss you oooxxx

G said...

You are quite the historian! Sounds like fun to me. That little devil Minka taking dares :)

tsduff said...

G - That Icelander/German girl Minka is such a tease... don't you think? ;) She just loves to ruffle the waters.

Northern musings said...

I lived in Iceland from july 1986 to december 1988... just before the beer ban was lifted. Needless to say as an Australian I missed my beer so ventured to drink bjórlíki... lets just say it was interesting and I learned to develop a love for vodka and tonic instead

tsduff said...

Northing Musings - How brave of you. I think the creation of bjórlíki was very innovative. I like beer, but I don't really enjoy vodka other than the delicious Breninvin once in a while. Sounds like fun.