We can gather by the stares we get that foreign tourists are not an everyday occurrence, but its apparent that tourism is on the rise with huge plans to develop facilities for them. Never fear, this is Russia, tourist facilities does not mean chip shops, nightclubs and imported plastic nick nacks, no, it means historical coach tours, fantastic museums, work on the river to allow cruise boats, a harbour and swimming place, a new restaurant, handcrafted traditional weaving, basketry etc all made in front of you and of course events like this symposium- all state funded.
everything is done with care & an almost reverence for culture. So the new town is the usual ( I imagine ) concrete tower blocks, but despite the imposing appearance, they have nothing of the threatening atmosphere you'd expect from similar housing schemes in British cities, people seem capable of living in harmony without littering, asbos, disputes and discarded fridges outside. the old town is mostly all a state protected preservation area with 1000's of historical monuments and loads of specialised museums.
The museums are all beautifully laid out and interpreted, and international award winners. I'd love to go in to more detail but there is just so much ground to cover ( literally ! ). So imagine a 19th Russian merchants town, with a history dating back to neolithic period. with muslim tartars and orthodox russians living side by side in harmony for hundreds of years, with pioneering Doctors of neuroscience, world famous artists, women warriors both Bulgars and in the napoleonic wars, imagine a place where people especially come to get married as it is so beautiful and romantic, classic ( I don't know what the proper word will be ? ) baroque almost architecture mixed with folk art style and mosque domes, its not like anything you've seen in any travel documentary, & i'm only scratching the surface.