Ganja is Azerbaijan's second city with a population of nearly 300,000. A 'Ganja kiss', like the Glasgow equivalent, is in fact a head-butt. But the caricature of short-tempered citizens is exaggerated. Very few people have heard enough Jamaican English to realize the funny side of the town's name nor the irony that Hash (Xash) is a local delicacy.
Ganja makes a logical base for touring the lovely mountains and forests of the Lesser Caucasus. Its pleasantly calm city centre has several mosques and churches (most now disused or converted into theatres), an imposing Stalinist city hall, the former National parliament building and the quaintly kitsch 'bottle house'.
Despite a certain Soviet grandeur, the main touristic reason to come to Azerbaijan's pleasant second city is as a staging post for Xanlar and Goy-Gol. Today Ganca lags very considerably behind the capital in almost all senses. Yet, as it self-indulgently celebrated in 2006, the city has 25 centuries of history behind it and was formerly a much more important cultural centre than Baku.
Most proudly it was home to the national bard Nizami Gancavi (1141-1209).