The next day we spend in celebration of the snow: We ice fish, snowmobile, and ride on sleighs. That night, ­relaxed from our frolicking in the cold, we attend the awards banquet, which includes a feast of reindeer meat, salmon, and - what else - lots of Finlandia vodka. The Finnish contender, Jan Lindgren, is announced as the winner, while the basketball player from Belgrade, Aleksander Stipcic, places second. In celebration, shots are downed, arms are slung over shoulders, and lips are smacked. Suddenly, the world seems like a very small place.

Back through the looking glass in Helsinki, I spend my final day detoxing with shopping. Finnish design mirrors its people: functional, avant-garde, sexy, well formed, and durable. I stride through Helsinki's Design District, an eclectic downtown area with more than 100 shops offering creative fashion, jewelry, art, antiques, furnishings, and more. I walk in the shadows of the romantic Art Nouveau buildings topped with fairy-tale touches like gargoyles that come from not-so-scary nightmares. I hit the Arabia Factory and its showroom, buying greatly discounted Iittala glasses and Arabia bowls. I go to Stockmann, which is London's Harrods meets Paris's Le Samaritaine - an awe-inspiring department store so huge, I am certain people must live within it. And, at last, I splurge on jewelry at Kalevala Koru, a shop offering modern and traditional designs based on pieces found in Finnish archaeological excavations.

Bags in hand, I consider one last vodka for the road, but without the mantle of judges­ and an international cadre of competitors, it just doesn't seem worthwhile.

Well, maybe just one more … and make it Finlandia.