Russell Shorto

Quirks of Amsterdam, Revealed During Lunch

The Haarlemmerstraat in Amsterdam is a narrow enough thoroughfare that from my office window I can easily see into the shops across the street. There is the olive oil boutique, with its rows of metal barrels and its sign inside saying “Check Your Oil,” and the coffee shop that young, nattily dressed tourists wander into to get licitly high. (Most visitors know that in Amsterdam a cafe is for coffee, and a coffee shop is for marijuana.) Looking up, I have to crane my neck to take in the succession of gable types on the brick facades — step, bell, spout — that signal the changing fashions among real estate developers during the city’s golden age in the 17th century.

About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar