An article on the Sakhalin island in the NYT’s Travel section. Overall, it’s good, and valuable as an attention catcher. Just a few notes:
Tourism pioneers will most likely fly to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital, from Sapporo, Japan, on the 90-minute prop-plane flights of Sakhalin Aviastrassy. Known as SAT, the island airline is vastly improved from the old days. Competing against Asiana for the lucrative Seoul route, SAT stewardesses all seem to be graduates of the New Russian smile school. Although there is talk of flights from Houston and Anchorage for the summer of 2004, alternatives are three-hour flights from Seoul or a nine-hour flight from Moscow.
So Aeroflot does not have a complete monopoly on international flights. Great. But it doesn’t justify the extra “s” in the Sakhalin company’s name: it should be Aviatrassy — Air Lines or Air Routes, from the obvious avia, and trassy, plural of trassa, from German Trasse. The misspelled version, Aviastrassy, could similarly be traced to Strasse if it had a valid claim to existence.
“From czarist gulag to World War II battleground to cold war outpost…” would be OK if not for the “czarist gulag” — both an anachronism and a misnomer. It is no more congruent than “19th-century Massachusetts concentration camps”. Besides, I do not think using gulag as a common noun is a bright idea; the word refers to a long-gone institution that was a hyperevil version of a department of corrections.
Back on the train, time passed easily, with the hours spent drinking beer in the bar car and snoozing with the rocking ride. In the morning, endless stands of white birches could be seen behind cheery yellow curtains, printed with the word “solntsa,” or “sun.”
In fact, “solntsa” is “suns”, and “solntse” is “sun”. Other than that, the curtains must have been terrific.