The Bastei, the Königstein Fortress, the Neurathen Castle and the Malerweg (Painter’s Path) – hiking in Germany's so-called 'Saxon Switzerland' and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains takes you along well-trodden paths through spectacular places. Perhaps you are looking for something new? Then I have a secret tip for you – a little-known long-distance hiking trail through Lusatia along the German, Czech and Polish border.
It’s hard to find any information about this adventurous long-distance hiking trail that is barely signposted. It winds through Saxon Switzerland, the Lusatian Highlands, the Zittau Mountains, the Upper Lusatian heathland towards the magnificent Lusatian Lakeland. Far away from any crowded tourist destinations, you can enjoy these idyllic landscapes in peace and quiet.
The trail takes you 285 miles (460 km) from Dresden-Bühlau to Lake Senftenberg through diverse nature, culture and history. You will discover romantic castles and idyllic valleys around Dresden, bizarre rock formations and picturesque stone gorges in Saxony Switzerland and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. In the Lusatian Highlands, you can enjoy fantastic views from imposing observation towers and hike through gently rolling countryside. Extinct volcanoes and enchanted rock labyrinths characterize the Zittau mountains. In the Lusatian Lakeland, you will stroll past rippling streams, sprawling ponds and shimmering water and large lakes, formed during mining in the area. When you get hungry, you can tuck into hearty Upper Lusatian cuisine and rich cream puffs.
I have divided this varied long-distance hiking trail into 20 stages that are quite demanding, with varying distances and altitudes. At each end of the day, you will find comfortable accommodation. I’ve noted in the stage description if places have limited choice so that you can book in good time. If you would like to spend the night under the open sky, you can set up your camp in one of the so-called Boofen in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Just don’t forget to pack your sleeping bag and camping mat.
This Lusatian hiking trail leads through many villages that have train connections. This way you can shorten your stages or even divide the whole route into several small adventures and only walk parts of it. It’s up to you to decide how to discover this exciting region, following the Lusatian Snake.
On the first stage of the Lausitzer Schlange long-distance hiking trail, you leave the city of Dresden further behind and dive into the picturesque area of the Dresdner Heide. You hike through the idyllic Prießnitz valley and pass hidden castle complexes.Your adventure along the Lusatian snake starts in the Bühlau district of Dresden. The easiest way to get here is by tram line 11 from Dresden-Hauptbahnhof. After about 40 minutes of driving to the easternmost corner of the city, get off at the Ullersdorfer Platz terminus and start your journey.After just a few steps, the houses will disappear behind you and you will find yourself in the forest area of the Dresdner Heide. On soft paths you hike past the picturesque Haarweidenstausee and soon meet the Prießnitz, which winds through the valley in many turns. Before you leave the fragrant forests, you stroll through the Langebrücker Saugärten, a former hunting area of the old electors. Then the forest opens in front of you and it goes over wide dirt roads to Hermsdorf with its pretty pond facilities. On the way there, the Jägerklause with typical Saxon home cooking invites you to stop.After you have crossed the busy A4 motorway via a safe pedestrian bridge, you will find overnight accommodation in cozy guesthouses such as the Old Pond House or Zwei Linden in Ottendorf.
The second stage of the Lusatian snake takes you to impressive and reserved castle complexes and into the picture-perfect Seifersdorfer valley. At the end of the day, a cool hop drink awaits you in the beer town of Radeberg.Freshly strengthened, you start on the outskirts of Ottendorf and follow a piece of the leisurely flowing Orla via dirt roads. The path takes you along the edge of the forest to Seifersdorf with its castle-like palace complex. If you like, you can take a guided tour or admire the castle as you pass. Then you dive into the picturesque Seifersdorfer valley. Located in the middle of the valley, the Marienmühle lures with a beer garden. With delicious ciabattas and sweet crepes up to the heart of the knuckle, the wandering heart is made happy here.The Große Röder accompanies you again and again and flows through secluded places like Liegau-Augustusbad and Lotzdorf, which you graze with the tour. With Klippenstein Castle you can reach the northern part of Radeberg, but your hike takes you from there back into the surrounding forests. At the end of the small Wallroda dam, turn towards Arnsdorf and hike to the train station.From here you can get back to Radeberg with a good selection of accommodation every half hour with the trilex or trilex-express in just four minutes. The single ticket costs 2.40 euros per person.
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The Lusatian snake takes you further south on today's stage and to the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains. You walk long distances through extensive field landscapes and forest to one of the heart towns of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.In the morning the train will take you back from Radeberg to where you left the Lausitzer Schlange yesterday: to Arnsdorf. Here you scurry directly into the dense Karswald. Listen carefully, you might hear it squeak in the forest every now and then. As soon as you meet the old train tracks, you also know why - funny bicycle drains and hand lever drains in the style of old pioneer cars use the tracks through the Karswald for their tours. At their main stop, you leave both the tracks and the forest and hike along dirt roads to Dittersbach with its fairytale tower castle.The path now follows the Wesenitz, which winds through the small villages of Porschendorf and Mühlsdorf. In Mühlsdorf you cross it and can already see the first foothills of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Once you have left Dorf Wehlen behind, you will go to the stage destination in Stadt Wehlen. Here you can decide whether you want to cross the Elbe by ferry today or simply stay on the other bank in Stadt Wehlen and move into accommodation.
In the middle of the unique Elbe Sandstone Mountains, you are on the fourth stage of the Lausitzer Schlange. Since the long-distance hiking trail is looking for peace and nature, you leave tourist strongholds like the Bastei rock formation in the truest sense of the word. For this you can expect a less frequented but no less spectacular part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and a few vertical meters.If you took the ferry to the Pötzscha district yesterday, you will have to climb the first few meters in altitude towards the Bärensteine. Otherwise you start the day with a ferry ride. The tour leads through the rock formations of the Great and Small Bearstone. An ascent is definitely worth it, because from up here you have a fantastic view of the surrounding table mountains, such as the Lilienstein with its obelisks. Past the Rauenstein, the ferry takes you back across the Elbe to Rathen with its pretty half-timbered houses.Again and again you hike up and down, cross the softly rippling Polenz and enjoy the view of the bizarre rock formations by the fire. Over 800 steps lead you down from here into the deep ground, from which you can go up again. From here, the Lausitzer snake follows the Malerweg. Through the village gorge you climb down steep metal stairs to the Kirnitzschtal, which the river of the same name has washed deep into the sandstone.From here it is not far to Ostrau, where you can choose between a hotel, guest house, inn or youth hostel.
Caves, grottos, countless boofs and the Hohe Liebe - the fifth stage is an absolutely magical highlight of the entire long-distance hiking trail. You walk between meter-high rock walls and bizarre rock formations of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Small side paths constantly lure to fantastic viewpoints. Depending on how much of it you take with you, today's tour has more or less vertical meters.A few steps out of Ostrava lead across fields, then you will disappear for the rest of the day in a fairytale forest made of washed-out rocks and fragrant conifers. The Lusatian snake always leads you along the foot of the massive rocks. So if you want to save meters in altitude, just follow their course. However, that would be a shame, because the most beautiful views are waiting to be discovered by you above the fir tree tops. I have picked out some of the most beautiful ones for you, such as the Hohe Liebe, the exciting Idagrotte and the rear predator. Depending on your condition and curiosity, you can of course make a frequent visit to the sandstone cliffs, some of which are thematically named. Names like the rollmops, herring stone and sprat will surely make you smile one time or another. You can stop off at the Zeughaus after 16 kilometers.This stage is also ideal for a very special kind of micro adventure: in the rocks you will find a number of boofs - large rock overhangs under which you can spend the night outdoors. If you have a sleeping bag and sleeping pad with you, you can split the stage over two days. This gives you more time to explore the rock labyrinths and spend a night under the starry sky.Otherwise the tour ends in Hinterhermsdorf, where you will find cozy guest houses such as “Zum Wanderstübel” and holiday apartments.
It continues wildly romantic and mystical, because today you reach the narrow Kirnitzsch Gorge on the Saxon-Bohemian border and can take a boat tour on one of the quaint barges. The leisurely babbling Kirnitzsch will accompany you from time to time on the sixth stage of the Lausitzer snake.You leave Hinterhermsdorf on a small village road and soon turn back onto soft forest paths. A few times up, a few times down, then you arrive at the Schlegelhütte with the best view. Here begins the wild Kirnitzsch Gorge with its steep cliffs, which the river cut deep into the sandstone. Maybe you would like to discover the gorge with one of the hand-operated barges before you cross it on foot along a narrow path high above the Kirnitzsch.From the gorge you now climb a few meters. The effort is rewarded, because from the Weifberg lookout tower you have a great panorama over the Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland. A few meters downhill, then up again you have reached the guard mountain hut. At the mountain restaurant you will be spoiled with delicious dishes from simple bockwurst to hearty Saupsdorfer game roast with Bohemian dumplings. Once you have eaten your fill, it is downhill a few kilometers for better digestion.At the small stone cave with boofe you meet the Kirnitzsch again. If you still have the time and the courage, you should not miss the ascent through the sky ladder. A long and narrow staircase leads up through a narrowing gorge. When you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a phenomenal view. Then it goes to the final climb to Lichtenhain, your today's destination with a good selection of accommodations.
After the challenging last stages, you can shift down a gear today. You leave the magical stone world of the Saxon Switzerland National Park behind you and hike comfortably from Lichtenhain to small towns and a number of places to stop. A few meters of altitude must be overcome again this time.Via the panorama path it goes north out of Lichtenhain and into the forest. After only five kilometers, the forest opens up and offers a view of the pretty village of Sebnitz with its half-timbered houses. If you like, you can stop for a coffee and a piece of cake and listen to the sound of the Sebnitz. Since Sebnitz is connected to the rail network, you can also get in or out of the Lausitzer queue here.Past the Hasenberg, you briefly follow the train tracks and then climb up to the Ungerberg. In the restaurant of the same name you have earned a refreshment or you are still waiting up to Götzingerhöhe. From here you have a beautiful view of the Lausitzer Bergland and there is also a restaurant. You can take your time and enjoy the panorama, because you have almost reached the stage goal.In Neustadt in Sachsen you will find not only hotels and other affordable accommodation but also very good shopping opportunities to top up your provisions. Neustadt also has a train connection, so that long-distance hikes can also be entered and exited here.
With the eighth stage you reach the highest point of the Lusatian highlands. But not only that, you are literally going through “hell” - but admittedly an absolutely beautiful one.The first six kilometers of the day take you on gentle hills to the edge of the forest. The forest area surrounds the highest point in the Lusatian highlands, the Valtenberg. After you are immersed in the forest, the path climbs properly. The task now is to overcome around 250 meters of altitude. Once at 587 meters, the mountain hut and the lookout tower are two great rewards for the strenuous ascent. From the tower you have a great view to the Lusatian Mountains, which connects to the Lusatian Mountains.Now you descend down to "hell". The valley between Weifaer Höhe and the opposite mountains near Wehrsdorf collects the annual rivulets of snowmelt from the mountains until they become the river “forest water”.Shortly before your stage goal in Wilthen you can make a detour to the lovingly designed Knobelhütte, then you go over the railroad tracks to the famous Weinbrenner town of Wilthen, where spirits have been distilled since 1842. The best known product is probably the gold crown. You can end your long-distance hike or get back on the train here.
In the semicircle, the Lausitzer snake first winds to the north on the ninth stage, then meanders out of Bautzen to the south. Only two ascents await you today, but the second one is all the more crunchy on Mount Czorneboh. You will also meet the Spree for the first time.Start the day with a short climb and hike past the densely overgrown Mönchswalder Berg. When descending out of the forest, you can already see Obergurig with the inconspicuously winding Spree. At the Old Bohemian Bridge made of natural stone you cross the river, which appears to be very delicate, and follow its shores in the middle of the picturesque, rocky Spree Valley in Humboldthain. Suddenly you are in the middle of Bautzen city center and walk past the train station - a good place to start or end if you do not have enough time for the entire route.You will stroll leisurely across the fields of Upper Lusatia for many kilometers until you are about 15 kilometers behind you. Now it means to give everything, because now it goes high! Fortunately, the mountain inn is waiting for you with a cool drink on the 555-meter-high Czorneboh. Incidentally, the name comes from Sorbian and means "Black God", meaning devil.From now on you can relax because the way to the stage in Cunewalde is only downhill. In the long village you will find only a few guest houses and holiday homes. I therefore recommend that you book in advance and, if necessary, discuss with the accommodation whether they can pick you up from the long-distance hiking trail.
Ever further south - the trend clearly continues on today's kilometers. The Lusatian snake brings you again to the Czech border and shows you the most beautiful sides of the Upper Lusatian highlands.The first challenge of the day is not long in coming. You climb around 200 vertical meters directly from the start of Cunewalde up to Bieleboh. At its summit, you can take a breather in the hut or hang up the few steps of the 21-meter-high lookout tower at the back. From up here you have a wonderful panoramic view of the volcanic mountain range of the Lusatian Mountains. A preview of the stages ahead of you. If you started early enough, you can also enjoy a mountain breakfast in the lovingly rustic Bielebohbaude.In Neusalza-Spremberg it is worth making a small detour to the Heimathaus Reiterhaus, one of the oldest and, above all, the most beautiful surrounding houses in Upper Lusatia. You dive straight into the Spreepark. The Spree flows here in absolutely idyllic moss-covered rocks. You can expect home-style and Upper Lusatian cuisine in the rustic Blockhaus restaurant, which also offers accommodation.A last, but also very steep climb begins after the train station from Ebersbach to the 485 meter high Schlechteberg. Your milestone is now in sight. In Neugersdorf you will find a hotel and a youth hostel. If you want to walk a few more kilometers, there are more accommodations in the direction of Seifhennersdorf.
The Zittau Mountains are now right in front of you. On your tour you will pass caves, through tranquil villages and end your day at the foot of the highest mountain in the mountain range. It goes up and down a few times again, but today there are no steep climbs.Off into the forest after your departure from Neugersdorf towards Seifhennersdorf. From here you hike to the former home of robber captain Johannes Karasek. Karasek went down in history as a ruthless robber, but he is remembered by the population as a kind of Robin Hood.
He took from the rich to give to the poor.A little further on, the Karasek Cave awaits you at the White Stone. You leave the Hofebusch forest section via the Lausitzer Bergweg, which takes you to Großschönau with connection to the rail network. From the Hutberg above the city you have a wonderful view before strolling through the streets with their quaint houses.Parallel to Waltersdorfer Straße, the route now takes you through field and forest paths to the secluded Walterdorf, which lies at the foot of the Lausche. The Lausche is an extinct volcano and - if you still have strength and time - the highest mountain in the Zittau Mountains offers you a unique panoramic view.In the Sonnebergbaude you will find an inviting quarter with the best cuisine. Treat yourself to one of the famous creamy cream puffs. You really deserve it.
Your twelfth stage takes you through the most beautiful landscapes of the Zittau Mountains. Washed out sandstone formations will always remind you of Saxon Switzerland, while the Lusatian snake slowly winds its way to Zittau.From the Sonnebergbaude you follow the Oberlausitzer Bergweg for a few kilometers, then the long-distance hiking trail turns to the Falkenstein. From the striking sandstone and climbing rock you have a great view back to the Lausche. A little later, a small path leads to the Big and Small Organ, volcanic witnesses of earth's history that look like miniature basalt columns. Of course I will also send you up to the Carolafelsen. From "my" rock you have a beautiful view of the Jonsdorf rock city and Jonsdorf itself, which you only touch on the edge.The path winds on to Oybin with its impressive castle ruin, which towers on the steep rock faces of the Oybin mountain. If you don't want to walk that much today, you can chug into the stage destination with the Zittau narrow-gauge railway. Historic steam trains run several times a day almost all year round and rattle comfortably through the idyllic mountain landscape. Then you will miss the unique view from the potter with his bizarre rock gate and chalet for a cozy retreat.At Olbersdorfer See you can cool your feet in the clean water and bury them on the sandy beach, then it goes to the city center of Zittau. Here you will find many good accommodations, shops, restaurants and of course a train connection.
With Zittau you leave the mountainous landscape and sandstones behind and always walk north on the 13th stage of the Lausitzer Schlange. In addition to wonderfully wide landscapes, the birthplace of poinsettias awaits you in today's destination.Your journey continues at Zittau train station. It is worth looking back shortly after you have left the city, because far away you can see the striking television tower on the Jeschken in good weather. The mountain is the highest elevation in the Jeschkengebirge in Northern Bohemia with a height of just over 1,000 meters. Today you are always on the edge of civilization on broad dirt roads and touch small towns such as Eckartsberg, Oberseifersdorf and Oderwitz. At the Birkmühle east of Oderwitz, a rustic post mill, you can stop for a break with coffee and cake. The path now turns into the forest area with cool streams and then takes you across fields to your day's destination, Herrnhut. Take a little time here for the show workshop and manufacture. Did you know that the very first poinsettias that were hanging over many doors and in numerous windows were created here by a math teacher?If you like to hike a little more, you will find the Herrnhut Sculpture Path just around the corner, which tells you something about local history. By bus you can easily get to Herrnhut from the end with a manageable number of accommodations.
Wide fields, fragrant forest areas with babbling brooks and small villages also accompany you on the 14th stage of the Lausitzer snake. You already have the mountain world behind you, but two climbs to beautiful panoramic mountains still await you today.You leave Herrnhut on small roads heading north and you will soon find yourself again on Wolfsberg. From up here you have a beautiful view of the Strahwalde district of Herrnhut. You descend on the other side of the mountain and stroll along wide dirt roads. In front of you you can already see the Löbauer mountain. Right, it also goes up here - and with a crisp climb. The effort is absolutely rewarded, because the only surviving cast iron lookout tower in Europe sits enthroned on the almost 450-meter-high extinct volcano. In the associated inn you can fortify yourself with a refreshing drink.In Löbau you will find a number of places to stop for refreshments after the descent and also a train connection if you want to end your hike here. Otherwise, the way takes you to the idyllic breakthrough valley of the Opole scale, which the Löbauer water has washed out over time.You end the day in the small village of Zoblitz, which has only one accommodation with the Goldene Krone pension. I therefore recommend that you reserve well in advance.
The longest stage of the Lusatian snake awaits you today with a length of almost 33 kilometers. By your hike you are now well trained and there are no more significant climbs to master. In order to still be able to enjoy the landscape properly, I recommend an early start. Since there are little to no refreshments on the route, you should pack enough food.Freshly strengthened from breakfast, you move on into the vast field landscape of Upper Lusatia. The landscape changes and gives you the first signs that you are on the way to the Lakeland. At the old watermill you can enjoy the snack you brought with you. The snake winds its way through idyllic ponds on narrow paths and you can observe numerous water birds. Again and again you will come across rural settlement areas. A clean swimming lake is right on the side of the path. Here you can take a break and allow your feet to cool off.The last stretch leads you again across wide dirt roads and through narrow forest areas to Niesky, your destination. Here you will find accommodations from hotels to guesthouses to entire apartments.
There is a hint of Christmas in the air because today you are following part of the ecumenical pilgrimage route that takes you directly to the gingerbread museum. In addition, a lot of nature is waiting for you in the Upper Lusatian heath and pond landscape.You leave Niesky in a westerly direction and dive into the surrounding forest. Soon the thick forest opens up and gives you a unique view of the sea-like banks of the Quitzdorf dam. The lake is the largest reservoir in Saxony by area and, until a few years ago, was the largest inland water. On a picnic bench you can listen to the sloshing of the waves for a few minutes. You circle the lake a little away from the north shore and come back to the water in Kollm. Guest houses and an East Algae campground invite you to linger.Field and forest are your companions to Weißenberg, where you can hope for a cup of coffee with pilgrim cookies and of course gingerbread as a pilgrim in the gingerbread museum "Alte Pfefferküchlerei". The last section is really romantic again, because you follow the Löbauer water again in the Gröditzer scale, a wonderful, natural biotope.You can find accommodation either at the end of the Gröditzer scale in the Refugio Santa Martha pilgrim hostel in the Gröditz castle park or a little south of the Lausitzer Schlange in Weicha in the Pension Weichaer Hof.
The 17th stage of the Lausitzer Schlange takes you deep into the Upper Lusatian heath and pond landscape. It is all about the waters and their inhabitants. Numerous footbridges and viewing platforms make their observation possible. Since there is a lot of distance waiting for you again today, it makes sense to have the alarm ringing very early. Then you still have enough time for nature.It goes out into the fields. With the Ruprechttümpel and the Schafberg lake behind it you meet the first smaller bodies of water. You follow a part of the Oberlausitzer Ringweg, then the Lausitzer serpent winds along a very narrow path through a small sea of dozen pond systems. In the middle of the path you will find a wooden lookout tower from which you can watch the water birds. In the House of a Thousand Ponds in Wartha you can learn more about the life of all aquatic inhabitants.You leave the ponds and hike on soft forest paths. The towns of Geißlitz, Halbendorf and Neudorf / Spree are right on the route and you cross the Spree from time to time.After around 27 kilometers, you leave the Lausitzer queue to get to your night quarters. In Uhyst, about one kilometer from the long-distance hiking trail, you will find several accommodations on Bärwalder See.
The day of a thousand lakes, that's what I would call the 18th stage on the Lusatian snake. You are on an almost flat route for around 31 kilometers. Sorbian settlements keep popping up in front of you, but you mostly hike through extensive forests and cultivated land. Pack up enough food because there are no places to stop for refreshments today.From Uhyst, you first follow the same path on which you left the long-distance hiking trail yesterday. You pass the large street pond, the test pond with 14 other small ponds around it and come through the settlements of Mönau and Rauden. Then you turn into the forest. And so it continues. Ponds, small settlements, forest. The villages are so small that you will be back at the end within a few minutes. All the better you can let the nature of the Upper Lusatian Lakeland work on you and soak it up.On the banks of the Knappensee, a lake created by the open-cast mine, you can settle down and take a break. If you still have time and leisure, have a look at the Saxon Industrial Museum in the old energy factory in Knappenrode - with its almost hundred-year-old briquette factory, it is one of the most beautiful and impressive industrial buildings in Germany.In the end, after this long day in Maukendorf, two cozy pensions with a warm bed and good food are waiting for you.
After these many long stages, you can really take your time on the penultimate one. You walk less than ten kilometers from Maukendorf to the stage finish in Hoyerswerda. There is a lot to discover in the city of birth of the inventor of the first working computer, Konrad Zuse.After a hearty breakfast you stroll through the forest and across fields from Maukendorf to Spohla, cross the Hoyerswerdaer Schwarzwasser and you have already reached your milestone. Either you just put your feet up in your accommodation or you can explore the absolutely worth seeing old town.The noble Hoyerswerda castle houses the city museum and with a combination ticket you can visit the zoo in the castle garden. Saxony's oldest butcher shop is just a few streets away between the facades of the historic old town. A nice end to your city tour is the market square with the listed town hall, the course Saxon Postmeilenstein and striking Sorb fountain.In Hoyerswerda there is a diverse selection of accommodation and of course a connection to the rail network.
Your adventure on the Lusatian snake is slowly coming to an end. On a flat route, it winds to the largest and most beautiful lakes in the Lusatian Lakeland, past maritime lighthouses to dreamlike sandy beaches - a crowning conclusion to your trip.You leave the hustle and bustle of Hoyerswerda on the main street. You turn south one last time to the tranquil village of Bröthen, then you go straight to the open-cast mining area around Schwarzkollm. If you like, you can indulge in the magic of the KRABAT mill and immerse yourself in the world of the legendary figure Krabat. The magician is said to have learned the magic craft in the mill. An adventure path brings you closer to the story with many lovingly depicted scenes.To the right and left of the path you can always see relics of the open-cast mine. Lignite was formerly mined on the Lusatian Lake District, but the mining areas were gradually transformed by flooding into the beautiful lake landscape through which you are now hiking. Every lake shimmers in different colors. The nearby Partwitz lake glows turquoise blue like in the Caribbean. You can enjoy the deep blue on the shores of Lake Geierswalder and take a break at the red and white lighthouse.Over the Koschener Canal you walk to the Senftenberger See and to Großkoschen, where your experience on the Lausitzer Schlange comes to an end. On the beach you can bury your stray feet deep in the sand or celebrate your finish in one of the cute beach cafes.The next train connection for the journey home can be found in Senftenberg on the other side of the lake. You can get there very comfortably by ferry and enjoy the great lake panorama from the water. Alternatively, you can of course hike the approximately seven and a half kilometers on the shore to Senftenberg. In Großkoschen itself you will find many nice accommodations, so you can simply delay your trip home for a day.