The fifty-year-long whirlwind European romance
Carolyn, who was 30 at the time, worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, an American railroad that has since been absorbed by the Union Pacific rail company. Southern Pacific Railroad had several thousand employees 50 years ago, and the company’s employee club organized regular international trips, chartering planes and buses to transport railroad workers around Europe.
Carolyn was involved in organizing these excursions in addition to her regular work duties. She’d spend hours in meetings, assisting in the coordination of plans. Arriving in Europe was always a little nerve-racking because she felt responsible for anything that went wrong, no matter how minor. They had a good time, but Carolyn was always, or at least partially, in “work mode.”
Carolyn and her colleagues were met at the airport in a bright yellow bus on their 1971 trip. Carolyn was unaware that the trip’s tour director was watching her from afar as she directed her coworkers, assisting them in loading their luggage and settling into their seats.
“I was standing outside the bus,” Chris De Vreeze, the tour director, tells CNN Travel. “And I have to say, she looked good right there.”
“We were in charge of picking up the tourists at Schiphol Airport and then busing them around Scandinavia for about three weeks,” Chris recalls. “And that’s how we met in Amsterdam for the first time.”
“I didn’t pay much attention to Chris at first,” Carolyn admits. She was exhausted from the flight and focused on getting the trip started on the right foot.
Chris’ bus drove to Lübeck, in northern Germany, on the first day so the tired transatlantic travelers could rest before the next day’s drive.
The first leg of the journey was uneventful. The tour group then took a car ferry from Germany to Denmark, then to Sweden and Norway.
Chris and Carolyn had their first one-on-one conversation on one of these ferry rides.
“I recall sitting on a gangway on an overnight ferry,” Chris recalls. “All we were doing was talking and drinking.”