By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jun 12, 2008 at 11:35 AM

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY -- I tried to be a tourist today and explore the sites in Heidelberg. Rather than race from the big cities, I challenged myself with a different approach.

Plus, I met three young men from Pepperdine University in California who were spending three months in Germany studying music. They more than encouraged staying the day.

After setting up camp at a site south of the city, I biked to town and found the tourist information booth and bought a city map for €1. I asked for the top five spots to explore and museums and a student prison were suggested.

I found the Kurpfalzische Museum and since it was Monday, they were closed.

I tried the Studentenkarzer, a student detention room in the Old University. Years ago if a student violated rules or acted poorly they'd be put in a sort of jail. The small room was full of angst driven art.

Since it was Monday, the Studentenkarzer was closed.

I headed to the public library. You'll never guess ... they were closed.

I opted for Plan B, which didn't include a euro map, just a bike and desire to explore.

Sculpture and church

Touring the north end of Heidelberg I found a most awesome waterfall sculpture. I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Comet Orange, the German version of Sunny D, and sat in the sun in the mist of the sculpture and drank my weight in orange soda.

Other sculptures around Heidelberg included the weathered yet serious full size statue of Robert Wilhelm Bunsen. Few inscriptions were in English and the information map had little on the sculptures, so I determined he was important from 1811 to 1899.

The Madonna at Kornmarkt was in the main plaz and featured a Baroque Madonna created by Peter van den Braden in 1718. The statue of the Madonna was set off with a brilliant gold halo of stars and gold staff. At her feet, a cluster of cherub faced children.

Peterskirche or Peter's Church is the successor to the oldest parish church in the city, dating 1485 - 1500. The exterior was brilliant and intimidating with religious statues on either side and a statue atop the peak holding a cross.

Inside the church was stark and white. A series of crystal and silver chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

The best entertainment is free

The German soccer team beat Poland Sunday in a European tournament. Within five minutes of the opening kickoff Germanys scored and cheers could be heard throughout the neighborhood.

Black, red and orange German flags are everywhere this Monday. Hanging out second story windows, flying from cars and there was even a small dog walking the streets of Heidelberg sporting a jersey and team colors.

A Brass Monkey statue near the historic Alte Brucke or Old Bridge built by elector Carl Theodor in 1788, was drawing a lot of attention. You could stick your head inside the statue's face or climb on top.

Several German girls translated the writing near the statue and I joked that it sounded like it came from the Harry Potter series.

Crossing the Old Bridge you can easily view the medieval Heidelberg Castle built into the hill high above the city. The boys from Pepperdine said the castle was bathed in ruby red lights Sunday night after the German soccer victory.

Simple pleasures

The best part of the Heidelberg tour was coming across three young street musicians. Ten-year-old Leonie led the group on her red recorder and five-year-old Elias and four-year-old Aylin brought the percussion.

"She wanted to buy a walkie talkie," said Leonie's mom Anja who watched from across the street.

The street performance was Leonie's idea. She had been playing for two years following in the footsteps of her mother who played flute, guitar and piano and a father who was an accomplished cellist.

"They play about two times a month," said Anja applauding her daughter's rendition of Twinkle, twinkle little star.

People walking the mall stopped to watch and take pictures. Leonie read music out of a simple book and piped out songs like Three Blind Mice, Mary had a little lamb and other short jigs. The rest of the trio tapped along with pale blue egg shaped clackers and a small wooden washboard.

Aylin, with her furry pink princess crown and round pink specs, got the most attention as she displayed genuine enthusiasm with a simple seriousness to stay in beat.


Judy Steffes Special to

Judy is a Milwaukee native who is ever exploring the country. Her favorite mode of travel is her 21-speed, blue Centurion bicycle, which she bought after high school. Judy has worked in the local media for the past 20 years. "I need to do something to support my biking habit."

Judy has an extensive history in radio news, having worked at WISN, WUWM, WTMJ, WKTY in La Crosse and WBKV in West Bend. A strong interest in sports also had Judy reporting for ESPN Radio covering the Packers, Buck, Brewers and Badgers. "One of my first Brewer games at County Stadium the security guy yelled as I walked into the locker room ‘LADY IN THE LOCKER ROOM.’ Now it’s so commonplace. But that story makes me sound really old."

Judy is currently working at WISN-TV in Milwaukee. She is a freelance writer and her pieces have been seen in The Small Business Times and The Business Journal. Her travel journal has appeared in Minnesota Trails Magazine, The Statesman and the West Bend Daily News, to name a few.

Aside from biking, running and being active in her community, Judy is known as someone who is "very, very thrifty." "I get candles for Christmas. My friends call them my space heaters because I normally keep the heat in my house at 40 degrees during the winter. It’s not that I can’t afford to turn up the thermostat, I just hate paying for heat."

Judy said her "conservative attitude" plays a part in her bike tours ... not needing to pay for gas and frequently spending nights camping inside churches. "First of all, it makes me feel safe since I’m traveling alone and second all you’re doing is sleeping, so why pay for that. It’s no wonder I can’t ever get someone to travel with me."

Judy grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated from Dominican High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Judy is the second oldest among seven siblings and spends a lot of her time working as a "park tester" along with her eight nieces and nephews.