Hundred years ago French-Armenian entrepreneur Gulbenkian advised travellers to get out of 'insupportable' Elisavetspol (Ganja) and 'seek the shade of Hajikand or Hellenfeld' (ie Helenendorf, now Xanlar). This advice remains highly appropriate. Xanlar has a village atmosphere with quiet tree-lined streets of chocolate-box wooden homes and templing glimpses of the snowcapped lesser Caucasus peaks - a delightful contrast to the dull lowland towns. The area has been cultivated for centuries and a picturesque 12th-century bridge still crosses the river at the precipitous western edge of the village. But the village itself was only founded (as Helenendorf) in 1819 by German winemakers. The village of Xanlar has an unusually agreeable atmosphere. Although no Germans remain, Germanic key-stone inscriptions appear above picturesque gateways, the old church now houses a small museum and several houses on the tree-lined streets are very photogenic.
There was a settlement here as early as the Bronze Age. An extensive cemetery was excavated in the 1990s, with many bronze weapons (swords, daggers, axes), some jewelry (rings, bracelets, necklaces), and clay black dishes with the geometric designs, some of which are on display at the local museum.
Xanlar has a small history museum (usually closed) and an attractive music school. The simple 1854 German church has been converted into a volleyball court, sit in the organ loft to watch the game. If he's sober enough, one of the delights of a visit is encountering octogenarian Viktor, Xanlar's last ethnic German inhabitant. His house is an unkept but delightful shrine of 1930s Europhilia.
The German population was deported, 1935-1941, to Siberia on Joseph Stalin's orders. Traces of the German settlement can be seen in the school buildings and the parish church built in 1854.
Hotel Koroglu, housed in Herr Forer's typical balconied wooden house, looks attractive but has no heating or hot water and has yet to repair bullet holes fired into the ceiling by some unruly guests back in 1993.
The town was renamed to Khanlar in 1938 in honor of the Azerbaijani labor organizer Khanlar Safaraliyev. It was renamed in 2008 after a nearby lake, Goygol.
If you're planning a trip to Azerbaijan you may be interested ▶ Azerbaijan highlights - For those who prefer to go unbeaten path, to explore less visited places and check national charisma of this small country in Southern Caucasus on the edge of Europe.