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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". Economic growth and investment, however, are beginning to transform Europe's second-youngest capital. A new "Millennium 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-era suburbs. A pedestrian area was recently constructed, and the main square has been completely redesigned. Podgorica is now 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. The city was incorporated into Montenegro only in 1878, following the Congress of Berlin. Heavy bombing during the Second World War almost levelled Podgorica, home to about 13,000 inhabitants at the time. 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 gave the city not only a new name, but also a slew of construction sites and a demographic boom. New apartment buildings appeared, as did new administrative offices, and – as of the early 1970s – a new 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 today remains Montenegro's biggest company. Another huge company that has survived is "AD Plantaze", a sprawling vineyard, stretching from the suburbs of Podgorica to Lake Shkodra, which forms the border to Albania.

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

April 2008

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