Russell Shorto

Quirks of Amsterdam, Revealed During Lunch

The New York Times

by Russell Shorto

April 19, 2013

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 café 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.