Just 260km from Novosibirsk, but light years ahead in terms of history, ambience and tourist appeal, Tomsk is one of the most enjoyable cities in Siberia. It combines endless examples of fine wooden mansions, some grand century-old commercial buildings and a dynamic, modern outlook. Tomsk's relatively intact architecture was in part preserved by a ghastly commercial miscalculation. The city fathers refused to have the Trans-Siberian Railway pass through, fearing noise, dirt and disruption. Instead they found economic isolation, and the once important trading centre dwindled. However, it survived as a university city and now has half a dozen major academic establishments - hence the youthful, intellectual atmosphere during term time. In summer the city is relatively quiet.