A North American’s reflections on a Minimal Normal summer in hornbaek

By Daniel Tenenbaum.

They say that travel helps give you a new perspective. Since most Danes didn’t leave Denmark this summer due to Covid-19, I hope this reflection from a North American who visited Hornbaek this summer can provide a different perspective on what makes this seaside Danish town so special. 

First an introduction. You may have noticed that I used the term “North American” to describe my background. That is because I am Canadian born, having been brought up in Montreal. I immigrated to the US over 25 years ago as an adult, and settled in Los Angeles. As an English-speaking minority in a French province and then as a Canadian living in the US, in some ways my “outsider” perspective has made me acutely aware of differences when I visit new places. 

Little did I know 18 years ago that when I married a Dane I met in Los Angeles, that I would be spending almost every summer vacationing in Hornbaek.  As a professional “outsider”, I was determined to learn the ins and outs of this town so I can reach “almost insider” status.  Humbly I knew that Icould never be a full insider as that would require me to learn the week numbers!

Celebrating another Hornbæk birthday with my daughters Gabriella and Sophie (who brought her ukulele from home). Photo: Yael Tenenbaum,

In my determination to become an expert on all things Hornbaek related, I learned about the bike-path shortcuts, the best place at the harbor to “krabbe-krabbe” with our kids, and even which tomatoes may be worth spending a little more for at SuperBrugsen! 

We especially enjoyed being in Hornbaek this summer. We left a place where we had to put on a face mask when we stepped out of our home, where we limited the number of trips to the grocery store, and where many businesses were closed (some temporarily and some permanently). 

We arrived at a place where the only obvious signs of an ongoing pandemic were strategically positioned hand sanitizer pumps at the entry of stores and some polite social distancing at the check-out stand.   It was a summer that for us was like the name of the temporary store on Nordre Strandvej “Minimal Normal”, and waiting in line at the cashier without a mask was never this enjoyable!

So here is a humorous list that this “almost insider” noticed this summer about Hornbæk:
I appreciate a place where you can be on a bench at the “Greasy Corner” and barely hear what the person sitting next to you is saying in hushed tones, is the same town where the sound of a party 3 blocks away at 2 in the morning sounds like it’s happening next door!
There are 3 national grocery stores for a town of around 3,600 inhabitants. As a foodie, this is my kind of place!  The fact that they all seem to sell about the same thing is another story!

While Hornbaek is not an inexpensive place to live, it is great value!  It could rain for 12 hours straight and then be sunny for another 6 hours, after which you get treated to a beautiful sunset falling over Gilleleje harbor.  That’s like two days in one!

I love how you can find stalls in front of private homes selling strawberries, peas, potatoes, and jams (I particularly enjoy the jams from Nørregårdens). Though as a foreigner, when the only payment option is MobilePay I get the feeling that I’m excluded from buying this delicious produce as payback for President Trump’s trade sanctions. 

Come to think of it, why doesn’t Hornbaek have a weekly farmers market in front of the library during the summer?  While I understand that the regular flea market located there, where you can buy an old copy of a Donald Duck comic book, is an integral part of Danish culture, but why is there no place to buy the great North Zealand produce directly from the farmers?

On a mission to find the best homemade jam in Hornbæk: Nørregårdens . Foto: Daniel Tenenbaum.

While I’m locked out of the MobilePay system, the local library has welcomed me with open arms. Before leaving LA for my trip to Denmark I check for my leftover Krone, my electrical adapters and most importantly, my Helsingør Kommune library card! 

s it just me, or were you also upset when all those Hornbaek library teddy bears disappeared? I must have read that story about the Hornbæk bear 50 times to my kids! Maybe we need to start a Gofundme campaign to bring the bears back?
Now that I am back in LA and can reflect on our summer while enjoying my Danish gooseberry jam with my breakfast, my heart fills with joy thinking about the beautiful seaside town of Hornbæk and how the summer of 2020 will always be imprinted in my memory! 

Bonding over affordable housing with Bjarke Ingels who we bumped into while walking the streets of Copenhagen. Lighter city traffic and easy parking were a highlight of this summer given travel restrictions due to Coronavirus.

About the author:
When not spending the summer in Denmark, Daniel Tenenbaum lives with his family in Los Angeles. Daniel is the founding principal of the apartment investment firm Pacific Crest Real Estate, and is a Commissioner of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, overseeing all of the city’s public housing and rent subsidy program for low income and formerly homeless individuals. 

Drone-photo: Per Wadskjaer.

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Hornbaek.blog udgives af Lotte Lund Media Lab. 

Hvis du har en god historie, eller ønsker du at annoncere, er du velkommen til at kontakte Lotte Lund på mail lolu@lottelund.dk eller mobil 24 24 49 43. 

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