Friday, February 15, 2013

Bernina Express: The Rest of the Story!

We completely enjoyed riding the Bernina Express from Italy into Switzerland and back. But there's more to this story. We stayed only one night in St. Moritz, a small town with a reputation for being a bit snobby and ritzy. We didn't realize that prior to booking the hotel or we probably would have stayed a little further up the line in Filisur. St. Moritz is a ski town - full of extremely expensive hotels. We also learned (hindsight is 20/20) that the weekend we stayed was probably the busiest of the year. Lots of kids had this Monday and Tuesday off of school because of Carnivale, so many families hit the slopes. This week is also "Settimana Bianca" or White Week. Many students attend school-sponsored trips to the ski slopes for a week of skiing. Sounds fun! So when I booked our stay there, I chose one of the lower priced places. I'm using the term "lower priced" loosely here... very loosely. We can handle anything for one night, right?! Right. So we stayed at Hotel Stille. I booked our stay through, a site we regularly use and trusted.

When we arrived, I knew it was going to be interesting, to say the least. Outside was a group of young men, several were drunk and shirtless - wearing shorts in the snow! At the check-in desk, I asked if we were at the hostel, hoping we had accidentally gotten to the wrong check-in desk. Nope. The hostel was across the street - and looked like a major improvement from Hotel Stille. So our room was the only one they had available when I booked - a "family room." Two separate bedrooms with twin beds - really they were cots with futon-like mattresses. Everything was way, way dated, cheap and icky. The place was clean, but definitely felt dingy. I know I sound totally high-maintenance here. But take my word for it. Even Cole wouldn't take off his socks. Hehe!

So that is where we spent our most expensive hotel stay - ever. We had to laugh because what else can you do? We did see four little deer playing and eating just outside our window - the first we've seen in Europe and that made Cole happy.

At check-out the hotel manager offered to lower our price (if he could) before he even asked if we were happy or satisfied with our stay. Evidently booking through sites like actually increases your cost - most of the time. He recommended calling the hotel directly. Because of their contract with (or a European affiliate to we couldn't get a discount at all. He had already paid a significant fee to the website for our booking. Boo. The manager basically told me I paid about twice what I would have otherwise. Talk about sick... I was pretty frustrated - but many of our traveling adventures are "live and learn" types of experiences. We make a few mistakes along the way - I guess that's just part of the adventure... :)