By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jul 02, 2008 at 6:32 PM

PRIEN, Germany -- Returned to visit Prien and then Munich during my final week's tour.

Christiane, who I met on my second day in Germany, has welcomed me for the weekend.

I have a room in the loft of her very old (1868) family home. She's the third generation to live there. On the second flight of stairs you need to duck to continue the climb into the attic.

It reminds me of the fort my dad built in the upper half of the garage when I was in grade school, only this place is fully furnished and doesn't smell like an old beer can collection.

The island of Herrenchiemsee ...

Lake Chiemsee, formed around 20,000 years ago, is the biggest lake in Bavaria and a short, two-kilometer bike ride from Christiane's house.

A tour boat travels across the lake to an island famous for its 19th century castle built at the extravagant expense of the legendary King Ludwig II.

The king looks a little gay in his younger years with a haircut that's a cross between a bad Greg Brady and an even worse Napoleon Dynamite.

Ludwig wasn't really well connected with his people; he liked to go on sleigh rides in the middle of the night and spend a ton of money on private castles. Then a bunch of accusations flew and he was declared mentally ill and found dead at age 22, in the water with his psychiatrist.

Prior to that, he started working on this dream castle with 70 rooms modeled in the style of Versailles. Big and gold are two of the best words to describe the ornate decor of what is now the King Ludwig II Museum.

 It's agood thing somebody got some use of the place since after seven years of construction, since Ludwig only spent 10 days in the palace.

And, only 20 rooms in the Royal Palace were finished because the king ran out of coin.

What is finished at the castle is crazy expensive; marble flooring and hardwood floors with designs made with 16 different kinds of inlaid wood, there's a "magic table" or "dumbwaiter" in the dining room which is lowered through the floor with an elevator system, the table set, and then returned for supper.

There's a 60,000-liter tub in the royal bathroom, and a ceremonial bedroom with blue velvet walls and a blue globe nightlight lit with three candles at the foot of the XXL bed.

Every clunky, picture frame is trimmed in gold leaf. The ceilings are all hand painted with scenes of cherubic angels and meaty women catering to the needs of their men. The cabinets are huge, and the brown woodwork is actually made from the shells of sea turtles.

There is a 98-meter long hall of mirrors, in which 17 mirrors reflect the light from the 1848 candles in 44 candelabra and 33 chandeliers.

No pictures are allowed within the castle and our English-speaking docent seems bored and put off by our many questions.

I hook up with a brother and sister from Florida, and we take turns grilling the docent. We're all put off when asking why the clocks don't work, she says they can't find the weight to make it work. Ryan said they could make one and she deemed it expensive and unnecessary and we move along to another room.

Today's tidbits ...

I'm learning a lot about Christiane's years working as a flight attendant for Pan Am Airlines. Extremely interesting.

She left home at 25 and brought her dirndl along with. "I was very German," she said. She wore it down New York's Fifth Avenue and people asked her if she was a waitress. The drindl soon found its way to the closet.

Working in first class she met famous people like Diana Ross, Diane Sawyer and Colin Powell.

It took three interviews before Pan Am hired her, as she was too tall. "It was all so different at the time, they asked us questions like if we were married and we had to be weighed every six months ... but I loved to travel," she said.

A flight attendant's career normally lasted two years. "Because the girls had blonde hair and blue eyes and they would find a man and get married." Christiane's career lasted over 40 years and after living in San Francisco traveling the world she's returned to Germany.

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.