By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jun 04, 2008 at 9:56 AM

PRIEN, GERMANY -- I was treated to an elegant breakfast overlooking the Alps this morning. It's day three of my tour of Germany and feel like I'm living the high life.

Christiane, the retired flight attendant I met the night before, invited me for breakfast.

We ate on the back porch. Christiane sat at the end of the table so I could have a view of the Alps.

It was like dining in a fine restaurant; knives and forks surrounded fine white china decorated with a delicate blue pattern like something you would find at your grandmother's house.

A tea cup replaced the industrial coffee mug I was used to at Brother's Diner in Kewaskum and at each place setting was a miniature salt shaker the size of a thimble.

I coveted that salt shaker and longed to have it. Its cuteness was distracting.

Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with cheese and shallots, a crisp roll and a dish of strawberries mixed with Speisequark. "It's like cottage cheese without the chunky curds," said Christiane, explaining the German dairy.

On the table, a silver carafe of coffee, a small pitcher of cream which matched the rest of the setting; a block of soft, fresh butter and a big jar of thick orange apricot jam.

Christiane is a German version of former WISN Radio traffic marm Anne Catalane. An easy conversationalist, well traveled, a bubbly personality and someone who gets a second wind at 7 p.m.

"I normally swim a mile a day but I have most of my energy at night and that's when I start gardening," she said in spitfire fashion.

Christiane's home, less than a kilometer from Prien, is a family homestead that dates to 1885. The place initially served as the family's summer home.

"I was 6 months old in 1943 when my parents were bumped out in Berlin and we spent 10 years here without water or lights," said Christiane.

Christiane is 65, dressed in casual black pants and a violet v-neck sweater set off with a simple gold chain and a turquoise ring. "I'm a Sagittarius," she said, explaining how she worked for Pan Am and United Airlines the last 40 years. "I was constantly tired but loved to travel," she gushed, before detailing some of her memorable tours.

"I went to America and they hired a lot of foreigners; I worked during the war when they would fly troops in and out of Vietnam," she said, listing the route as San Francisco to Honolulu and Honolulu to Guam.

And then Guam, Saigon and Guam in the same day. "When the soldiers were going home, that was always a great trip but it was not so on the return."

We covered Chrisiane's adventures including hiking the Himalayas and she spoke extensively about the house, getting water and electricity in 1976 and her constant battle with squirrels.

"I actually call them seven sleepers because they sleep for seven months and then bother me the rest."

Christiane brought out a photo album and showed me pictures of her friends. They looked like squirrels with bushy tails but had big eyes, and a red bulbus nose like Rudolph.

The photo in the album was of the animal in a live trap. "They eat off my pear tree and then throw the pits on the ground," she said, adding she had already set several traps for this season with their favorite treat of dried prunes.

"I caught 19 of them last year," she bragged, admitting she would let them go several kilometers away even though they easily found their way back.

Christiane actually had three photo albums, a detailed documentary of the house and the people who lived in it. "One hundred and 14 years at this house and we're now into the sixth generation."

Photos included Christiane's mother -- a teenager in ponytails -- black and white photos of Christiane and her two sisters and a picture from 1976 when big trucks were used to install underground pipes.

We went on a quick house tour which included many rooms, soon to be painted stucco walls, a framed painting in every room and a narrow staircase where you had to duck to get to the third floor; part of the charm of an older home.

"You should come back," said Christiane with an open invite at the end of June. "We have a festival in town and you could stay the weekend. I have another friend coming to visit but there's more than enough room." 

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.