Azerbaijan.. I heard so much about this country, about its people, about its culture. I didn’t know what should I believe and what not. That is why I’m truly happy to be able to discover this country. Moreover, I had the chance to judge on the country not based on its capital, that sometimes doesn’t shows the real spirit of the country.

Ganja is the second large city in Azerbaijan. It is constantly changing, leaving behind its dull Soviet past. According to medieval Arabic sources, the city of Ganja was founded in 859-60 and during its live changed several empires. It didn’t have an easy life. It was destroyed and rebuild more times. You can feel in the air the history of the city, the changes that happened in it.

In order to understand better the city, imagine that it is an old man, very, very old man. Now, this man has suffered a lot in his lifetime, he has lost his relatives, neighbours. He fought many times. He is old, has a lot of wrinkles, but he has a light in his eyes that shines so powerful. You can see that he is wise, experienced and he wants to live. The same happened with the city. It is old, passed through a lot of things, many its natives left it. However, it had the power to rebuilt itself, to change.

Ganja is the first non-European city that became a European Youth capital.

From the time Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the petroleum boom in the country, the region has been developing fast as a major tourist centre. Every city in the country has got its own related testimonials and experiences, which focus on the region’s ancient history. Also in time, new construction projects along with improved technology are coming together to provide a wonderful blend of contemporary services & entertainment and classic Azerbaijani culture & history.

You understand that you’re close to Ganja when you see huge books on the road. The city takes pride in the fact that the greatest Azerbaijani poet Nizami Gyanjevi was born there. His mausoleum is a major tourist attraction.

Ganja

The urban landscape of Ganja is shaped by many communities. It reflects the various empires that have previously ruled the city. The soviet time left big signs on the city. When you’re walking around the street you can easily recognise the post-soviet architecture with an oriental touch.

Ganja

This area has a rich natural, cultural and historical heritage. You can feel the true Azerbaijan spirit.

Heydar Aliyev Park Complex. This newest Ganja Park Complex is the largest in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. It is one of the five largest parks in the world.

Heydar Aliyev Park

The Nizami Mausoleum built in honor of the 12th-century poet Nizami Ganjavi. The lyrics of Nizami Ganjavi is notable for humanist ideas of high mastership,secular attitude to love, human fade. But Nizami Ganjavi had gone to history of world literature as an author of ‘Khamsa” consisted of 5 poems written in form of couplets.

Nizami Mausoleum

Nizami museum.

Nizami museum

The Shah Abbas or Juma Mosque.

The Shah Abbas

Bottle House, a two-storey building constructed of approximately 50,000 bottles. It was built by Ibrahim Jafarov in 1966 in honour of his brother missing in the Great Patriotic War.

bottle house, Ganja

Gandja market

Ganja market

This region is famous for Goygol – the state national reserve which is the first reserve in Azerbaijan. A large mountain lake Goygol, surrounded by the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus, was formed as a result of a devastating earthquake that destroyed the mountain Kapaz (XII century). They reopened it a few days ago. One of the lakes can be easily reached, the second one that is breathtaking is the present that you can receive after a 6 km walk, approximatively 270 stairs; and don’t forget that you have to do all the way back.

Goygol reservation

But a city isn’t just history and buildings, it’s people. And I think that what people feel about it is the most important.

Here’s what perfect strangers think about Ganja:

  • Some parts of the city looks like a village… a village in the city. 
  • It looks different from everything I saw so far. The food, the city, the market. I saw and experienced new things and I enjoyed all of them.
  • On the streets of the city you see plenty of Lada and Mercedes cars. It looks like they are trying to unite the west and the east culture.
  • I think that everyone can find similarities with his hometown.
  • I would compare Ganja with autumn. The red breaks houses, the trees… everything here makes me feel in autumn. 
  • The city looks like a personage from an oriental story.
  • You can feel the Iran and Persian culture here. I think that this is what makes it difference from other countries.
  • Azerbaijan people are very kind and try always to protect and help you. 
  • They wear only dark clothes. It is nearly impossible to find a bright spot.
  • I find our cultures close to each other, but on the other hand we are very different. Maybe it is because of the religious aspects.
  • It looks like Azerbaijan people take maximum from their life.

Being part of the project “Ganja 2016 in the stories of European Young writers” and being surrounded by volunteers and organisers from Azerbaijan, gave me the opportunity to understand better Azerbaijan people and its culture. It was a great experience with nice people (a family for some days).

I didn’t buy any souvenirs (except for the wine and tea that don’t count), because I’m carrying with me all the memories that I had here.

The almost 14 km of hiking to reach the second lake in the National reservation – Goygol.

Goygol

The ride in an old bus. We managed to fit in 22 people. It was uncomfortable, but so funny.

Caucasus

The long discussions without any sense with my self (cause no one was listening).

international team

The moments when I was feeling that we all are famous. The camera was following as everywhere.

Ganja European Youth Capital

My roommate, that happened to be from Lithuania. The country were I studied until this summer. (unfortunately, we don’t have a picture together) 

international team

There are so many things that I would like to say, but I’m afraid that it will be boring for you. 

So… that’s all folks 😀

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