CHRISTMAS IN MUNICH: A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

Original publication: BMW Classic

Laura Kukuk is a mere 25 years old, but the automotive engineer knows her way around high-end classic cars better than many a male colleague of greater vintage. At the age of 13 she set about dismantling a small moped and by 18 had switched her sights to a “Baby-Benz” (Mercedes 190 D). Her fondness for venerable machinery has not come about by chance. Instead, it is a legacy of quality time spent at the Nürburgring with her father Klaus, himself a petrolhead and historic car authority. Laura has honed her expertise everywhere from Woking, England (at sports car manufacturer McLaren) to Bavaria and Mercedes 300 SL specialists HK-Engineering. She travels far and wide to run the rule over valuable cars with her father and learns something new every time.

Laura Kukuk tends to her blog with the same passion she displays for the vintage automobiles in her care. And today she’s adding a special post just for us.

There’s no better smell than the festive season in Munich: the Christmas trees, the Glühwein, the Nürnberger wurst, the roasted almonds. Having moved back to my home town Cologne, I do miss Munich occasionally – in particular at this time of the year, when everyone gets together and the city becomes even cosier. It brings back memories of the December day last year when we went “Christmas tree hunting” in a Mini, with the stated mission of spreading Christmas joy and love as far as we could.

Wanted: a Christmas tree.

I’ve always loved the idea of treading a snowy forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree to bring home, and can thank the Griswold family in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for putting this tree-hunting dream in my head as a kid. While we always had a real tree growing up, we generally got them from a tree “supermarket”, where finding a good one was almost too easy.

This time it would be different, we wouldn’t just pluck any old tree from the nearest market, one among hundreds of perfectly wrapped examples. No, I was determined to do it right. What did that mean? Well “hunting” one. I also wanted to put a certain twist on the mission, so I could share the experience with as many people as possible. Being a car girl, that quickly resulted in seeking out the perfect wheels for the job at hand. As a former owner of a Mini (anno 1992), I’ve always wanted to create a scene that makes the Mini look truly mini. Step forward one of the last classic Minis – a bright red year-2000 model with a pair of white racing stripes – to act as tree transporter.

After a quick pit stop at a DIY store to get a few last items we’d need to track down our quarry and bring it back to base, we made our way towards the small town of Markt Indersdorf. Arriving to a warm welcome, it seemed news of our Mini adventure had spread. We were here to find a big ‘ol tree, cut it down and tether it to the roof of an apparently undersized conveyance. With saws in the boot and tales of daring exploits ready to be written, we were soon making our way up a small rural track to the tree farm.

Eventually a fence barred the way, sparing the Mini some rather inappropriate off-roading. So off we set on foot with all our gear, searching for the best-looking spruce in the neighbourhood, ideally something over two metres in height. Soon we found a perfect specimen, statuesque and proud, far broader and taller than either of us. We set to work, swapping sawing duties every few minutes. Finally, the moment of truth: our tree toppled to the ground. It was a good deal larger and heavier than originally anticipated, and the hard work was far from over. We’d come down a small hill while looking for our tree, so now we had to clamber back up it with our freshly foraged cargo.

Out of breath, but laughing and feeing just a little ridiculous, we finally rejoined our Mini, which was waiting for us dutifully. I’ll be honest, there was a moment, seeing the felled fir lying next to the little Mini, that we questioned whether this tree and this car roof were really compatible. But now was no time for the weak of will, so we decided to give it a go. I think it was at our third attempt that we managed to haul the tree onto the Mini’s postage-stamp roof, and we wasted no time in strapping it down for the journey home.

With saws and gear back in the boot, we were soon on the return leg down the path from the forest, the Mini cutting an amusingly dwarfed figure under the hulking tree. Inside, we were grinning like children, revelling in a job well done.

Heads turned wherever we went, every passing driver, pedestrian and bike rider wearing the goofiest smile. This was a veritable ambush by laughter, happiness and love, the Mini doing what Minis do, only far better than we’d dared imagine, beaming out the Christmas spirit.

People came up to us, young and old, thanking us for this wonderful idea and bringing charm and joy to the crazy pre-Christmas period. Back in Munich, we stopped at as many places as possible – starting with the Siegestor, where we parked the Mini next to an artwork centred around the word “Love”. This, after all, was the message we were trying to get across. It was an eye-catching scene, a constant stream of drivers pulling up to take pictures. Our mission of goodwill was attracting appreciation and affection from all around. Re-telling this story makes me want to jump into my car and drive down to Munich without delay. So…who’s up for doing it all again?

Heading down Munich’s famous Leopoldstrasse, we turned right onto Wittelsbacherplatz, where a medieval Christmas market takes place every year. What better place to enjoy a glass of Glühwein (alcohol-free, of course – I still had some driving to do), while watching people admire the heavily laden red Mini. People paused, took photos and selfies, admired our little car and wondered how it got here – whose great idea it was. One conversation lead to another, as people started telling us their tales of Christmas warmth. If only we could write them all down and retell each one.

And so it was “job done”, a case of: tree found, tree strapped to Mini, Christmas mission accomplished.

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