On tour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2006, 12:00am

Berlin: We are all taking a breather. It's been 21 days now since the adventure began and only eight of the 32 teams are still standing - Germany and Argentina, Italy and Ukraine, England and Portugal, Brazil and France. The action begins again today after a welcome two-day break.


Like most people, I too have taken the chance and caught up on my sleep. Staying in the same hotel for three nights in a row has been a luxury.


Different rooms, different beds, different pillows, they are a perfect recipe for becoming an insomniac. After a fitful night tossing and turning, you wake, or rather let sleep slip away like a thief at dawn, wondering where you are. It takes a moment or two before you know you are in Berlin and not Dortmund or Frankfurt.


In my travels around Germany, I have discovered one significant thing - hotel rooms are hot. These Berlin bunkers don't have air-conditioning. Well, at least the ones I've been in. I ask the Singaporean bell boy and he looks at me as if I'm from Mars.


Says Jimmy Yap: 'You don't need air-conditioning in Germany because it is cold for most of the year. When it is hot, you just open the windows.' He grins as he heads for the one casement that fronts my room.


Yup, I can understand the cold bit. But what about when it gets hot, like right now, or these past couple of weeks with the mercury hovering in the high 20s - degrees Celsius that is. Germany, like most of Europe, has been enjoying a heat wave. Well, it's nice during the day, but to sleep at night? Hong Kong has spoiled me.


Jimmy's face splits wide open again. He gestures me to wait. He is back in a couple of minutes, grinning happily. 'I have something for you,' he says.


His hands emerge from behind his back - he is carrying the smallest desk-top fan I have ever seen. It has two blades, both smaller than the length of my palm-sized mobile phone. It has two buttons - stop and start - so I guess it is only one-speed. It is like those toy fans you see sometimes in Hong Kong, which people hold to their faces as they sit in a bus. The only difference is the inside of a bus, all year round in Hong Kong, is like outer Siberia.


I can only dream about such coolness as I desperately toss and turn, trying to sleep. At least these past two days there have been no pesky Italian drivers tooting their horns way past midnight, celebrating victory and thanking Totti. They must be still getting over the shock of that fortuitous win over the Aussies.


There is no noise coming through my open windows. I know I'm not in Stuttgart, for the smells from the doner kebab shop are missing. Yes, it is Berlin. And I'm at the Savoy. Dawn is about to break over this capital of re-united Germany.


The action will begin soon. It will be hot, just like my room.


Number of the Day: 1990. With reunification, Berlin once again became the German capital in 1990, and the seat of government, nine years later.