Småsko, literally “little shoes”, is a rather odd word in the Norwegian language (well, I think so). There is no storsko (large shoe), for example. But it has a very specific meaning:
Småsko is simply any kind of regular shoe that doesn’t cover your ankles, and is generally used of children’s shoes. That’s one meaning. But that leads us to another, more significant meaning:
The first wearing of småsko signifies spring, because there is no surer sign of warming and the end of winter storms than a day that is warm and dry enough for you not to need to wear something to keep your ankles warm and dry. As winter gives way to spring, Bergen enters into its most vulnerable season for fires: April is generally a dry month and the withered grass of winter can easily catch fire. But those same dry and warming days make it possible to shed heavier footwear. Shoes are lighter than boots, and it is wonderful to feel how much easier it is to pick up the feet – in more ways than one.
I wore småsko on my way to work today, the first time this year for me. The weather turned a bit bitter on my walk home so my ankles did get a bit cold, but they felt great this morning. I’ve also noticed that the trees are getting a more cluttered silhouette: They are budding. Yesterday offered yet another sign of spring: All the kids out on their bikes in the dry, warmer weather.
(Pronounciation guide: småsko sounds sort of like SMOE-skoe. Except that that last O-sound is halfway between oe and oo. You have to pucker your lips to say it right.)