Static maps are somewhat limited, e.g. they can only be up to 640x640 pixels in size, but they provide support for locations as lat/long coordinates, zip-codes and search terms, draw markers, lines and polygons and do not need a developers key. You need to dig into the the documentation to find out the specifics but I found it pretty easy do put together a (rather long) URL with query parameters in python, retrieve the image from google and either save the image to disk or show it via PIL and/or TKinter.
(Note: I have shrunken down and glued together some example images; you can can a better sized image by clicking on the colored links (URLs) below and have google create the image on the fly).
1) To get a hybrid street+satellite map around the Empire State Building (note the + instead of spaces inside the search term part), you'd have to assemble a request like this:
2) For a a terrain map around latitude = 42.950827 (North) and Longitude = -122.108974 (East). Note that the actual extent around the center (the viewport) is a function of the zoom-level and the size of your image, zoom=0 shows all of the globe, zoom=20 is usually the limit for zooming in:
3) You can also "plot" a bunch of locations as Markers or connect them into lines or polygons within this viewport. Instead of specifying a center and zoom factor, you could also specify a bunch of locations (again either as lat/long, search term or even as zip-code) and let google figure out what "envelope" is needed to show them all within a map. Here's a couple of marker at such locations:
Again, this is just a quick overview, the documentation actually walks you nicely through creating such URLs. To start you can just assemble the URL by hand (in a text editor), then copy and paste them into your browser and look at the image but why not use python to do the work for you?
Here's some code to create such a URL programmatically and, in the simplest case, save the image it gets back from google as local file. You can use PIL to make a image directly from google's image data, i.e. without saving it to disk first.
So far, so good - but how would you show such a map (image) in a GUI? TkInter's canvas and label widgets can draw an image as a "background", however, I did run into a couple of strange issues when trying to do this inside a class. Luckily I did find this link: http://www.daniweb.com/forums/thread65288.html which let me put together a short and hopefully working example of reading a jpg image from disk and showing it inside a TkInter Frame.
This example uses a (pretty large) label to draw the image but it could be done with a canvas widget as well, in case you want to draw something "over" the map:
|The google static map inside a TkInter Window|