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Millennium Bridge in Podgorica
Millennium Bridge in Podgorica

According to the "Lonely Planet" travel guide, the capital, Podgorica is "Montenegro's most unattractive spot". However, economic growth and investments are beginning to transform Europe's second youngest capital. A new "Millenium bridge" over the Moraca river was opened in 2005. A new airport followed in May 2006. Numerous modern apartment buildings have sprung up, transforming the city's socialist suburbs. A pedestrian area was constructed, and the main square has been completely redesigned. Now it is home to 144,000 people.

Situated at the confluence of the Ribnica and Moraca rivers on the Zeta plain, Podgorica was a lively trading centre already in the Middle Ages. In 1474, it was occupied by the Ottomans, who turned it into their main bastion against the Montenegrin tribes. It was only incorporated into Montenegro in 1878, after the Congress of Berlin. Heavy bombing during the Second World War almost completely destroyed the town, which at the time numbered some 13,000 inhabitants. After the war, Podgorica became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, the smallest of the six republics making up Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1946, the city was renamed "Titograd" after the Yugoslav leader, a name it kept until 1992. (In international aviation, the code for Podgorica's airport is still "TGD").

Socialism not only brought a new name, but the rebuilding of the town as it exploded in size. Apartment buildings appeared, along with new administrative buildings and � in the early 1970s � a university. A large aluminium plant at the outskirts of the town became Montenegro's biggest company, employing some 4,000 workers at its height.

While numerous other socialist companies ceased to operate in the 1990s, the aluminium plant was privatised and is still Montenegro's biggest company today. Another huge company that has survived profitably is "AD Plantaze", a sprawling vineyard stretching from the suburbs of Podgorica to Lake Shkodra which forms the border to Albania.

However, Podgorica's economy is not driven by industry, but by services. Podgorica is undisputedly Montenegro's administrative, financial, trading, university and media centre.

April 2008

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