Salzburg, Austria by Paul Almeida
Salzburg is one of my favourite mid-sized cities in Europe and Austria’s fourth largest city, with only about 150,000 residents. Geographically, it lies at the foot of the Eastern Alps, close to the German border and is bisected by the Salzach River. The compact old town, with medieval and baroque architecture is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is easy to explore on foot. Salzburg is visited annually by millions of tourists from around the world and our Azorcan tour groups often list it as a favourite stop.
5 FUN FACTS
Salzburg literally means “Salt Fortress.” The reigning Prince-Archbishops, the city and the region became wealthy mainly from the salt mines in the area, trade and some gold mining. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a salt mine in the area to learn more about the extraction of the “white gold.”
The 11th century Hohensalzburg is one of the largest and best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. You can walk up the path to the fortress or you can take the Festungsbahn funicular railway located just off the Kapitelplatz. From the fortress, you can enjoy some of the best views of the city and the surrounding area.
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, and you can visit his birthplace which is also a museum. You can’t miss the bright yellow building at No. 9 Getreidegasse with “Mozart’s Gebursthaus” in gold letters on the façade. The Getreidegasse is a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. The ornamental wrought iron signs on the building facades harken back to medieval times. The Schlosserei Wieber shop on the Getreidegasse is a traditional metalworking shop that also continues to make these signs. The city celebrates Mozart Week festival in January around his birthday. A friend once joked that “Mozart was my favourite composer, now he’s my favourite decomposer.”
The famous Salzburg Festival, established in 1920 and which features some of Mozart’s works, is held each summer for five weeks starting in late July. With approximately two hundred drama, concert, and opera events and a quarter of a million visitors, it is a huge undertaking and an important driver of the local economy. The festival celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020 but unfortunately plans had to be scaled back due to the corona virus pandemic.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music,” about the Von Trapp family was set in Salzburg and movie fans love to search out film locations in the city.
Some of the most popular places to seek out are St. Peter’s cemetery, the Mirabell Palace and gardens with the Pegasus fountain, the Horse Pond, the Residence Square with it’s baroque fountain, Schloss Leopoldskron and the Nonnberg Abbey. The Rock Riding School, which was initially built to be a cathedral but was changed to a riding school by the Prince-Archbishop, later became Salzburg’s favourite concert venue. This is where the real Von Trapp family won the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival. There are other film locations located in the surrounding areas and there are tours that focus on the Von Trapp’s and the movie.
4 POINTS OF INTEREST
A walking tour of Salzburg usually starts at the Mirabell Palace gardens. The Palace was built by a Prince-Archbishop in 1606 and has a grand marble hall that is popular for weddings. The view from the palace’s gardens to the Hohensalzburg fortress in the summer when the geometrically laid flowers are in bloom is amazing. The Grand Fountain in the centre of the garden with four mythological statues representing the elements (Fire, Air, Earth, Water), the Dwarf Garden, and the Pegasus Fountain are popular photo stops. The best way to cross the Salzach river to the old town from the Mirabell gardens is the pedestrian Makartsteg Bridge which is usually adorned with numerous “love locks.” The locks are inscribed with the lovers initials, attached to the fencing and the key thrown into the Salzach.
As you cross the river to the old town (Altstadt), go to the right and you will find the Monchsberg lift which takes you up to the Museum of Modern Art (Museum der Moderne). The café at the museum is a great place to have a cappuccino and cheese strudel as you admire the view of the old town. The Monchsberg, which was named after the Benedictine monks, is one of five mountains or hills in Salzburg. The Monchsberg plateau has a hiking path through the forest that you can take and enjoy scenic views all the way to the Hohensalzburg fortress. The city has a mountain inspector’s office (Bergputzer) to check the mountain for possible falling rocks. In 1669, an avalanche of rock landed on the city below and killed over 200 people.
On the University Square (Universitatplatz), you will find the Grünmarkt or green
Market that goes back to the 18th century. The farmers market still has vendors selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and pastries. It’s a great place to sample local products, or grab a quick lunch or a pretzel. The Kollegienkirche or University church dominates the square, and there are several historic buildings surrounding the lively square.
A short walk from the University Square will take you past the Alter Markt square with the St. Florian Fountain and into the expansive Residence Square (Residenzplatz). The square has a magnificent baroque fountain decorated with four horses snorting water, giants, dolphins and a triton. Here is where you can find horse drawn carriages to enjoy the city centre at a leisurely pace. The Residence museum on the square is a testament to the immense wealth and political power of the Prince-Archbishop’s of Salzburg. The lavish state rooms and painting collection make it a top attraction. The 17th century baroque Salzburg Cathedral or Dom on the square is connected to the Residence. The Cathedral has religious relics of St. Rupert, an impressive pipe organ, plus an ornate ceiling and dome. The baptismal font is the same one used to baptize Mozart.
3 INTERESTING ACTIVITIES
To fully understand the significance of salt to the fortunes of Salzburg take a short trip to the Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, which is located on the Dürrnberg above the town of Hallein. After supplying you with miner’s overalls, you will go by rail deep into the mountain where you will walk through the tunnels, go down two long slides and take a raft trip across an underground salt lake. The very informative tour explains the history of the mine from the age of the Celts to modern mining methods. After the tour be sure to visit the SALINA Celtic village to see how life was 2,600 years ago.
The Red Bull Hanger 7 at the Salzburg Airport is an impressive glass structure that houses the Flying Bulls historical airplane and helicopter fleet plus a collection of Formula 1 race cars. Austrian Red Bull founder and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz is the owner of the hanger and the collection. If you like cars or planes, this is a must stop when you visit Salzburg or have a layover at the airport.
The imposing 900 year old medieval Hohenwerfen Castle, surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps, is located about 40 km south of Salzburg and overlooks the town of Werfen. A funicular takes you from the parking area up to the castle’s interior courtyard. The castle has an extensive weapons exhibit. The main event is a birds of prey demonstration from the Salzburg Falconry Center in the exterior courtyard with falcons, kites, vultures, and eagles. Some of these birds are huge and have no problem walking amongst the spectators. Be sure to check the daily times of the demonstrations in advance.
2 LOCAL DISHES TO ORDER
Tafelspitz is a popular Austrian dish of veal and vegetables that is simmered slowly. The broth is served separately as a first course then the veal and root vegetables are accompanied by apple-horsradish and chives.
Salzburger Nockerl was invented in Salzburg in the 17th century. Nockerl are vanilla flavoured dumplings dusted with powdered sugar and served with fruit jams or sauces. The warm dumplings arrive in three mounds to represent the three hills that surround Salzburg.
1 BEVERAGE TO ENJOY
There are eleven breweries in Salzburg, and the city is known as Austria’s beer capital. The Stiegl brewery has been privately owned since 1492. The Stieglkeller, located below the Hohensalzburg fortress, is a restaurant and beer garden that offers great views of the old town.
Established in 1621, the Augustiner Brau brewery and tavern is the biggest in Austria with indoor seating and a beer garden. In addition to great beer, you can purchase traditional dishes from food stands located inside the hall or the brewery.
Salzburg is a university town and has a lively café, beer garden and nightlife scene.
In addition to Mozart Week and the Salzburg Music Festival locals celebrate Fasching, Easter and harvest festivals. Salzburg’s Christmas markets are very popular and some shops in the old town specialize in Christmas.
Paul Almeida is the President of Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing tours and his company has taken thousands of people to Europe on custom group tours since 1994.
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My European Favourites – Emilia-Romagna, Italy
My European Favourites – Emilia-Romagna, Italy
When people think of Italy, the first places that usually come to mind are Rome, Venice, Milan and the region of Tuscany, which includes Florence and Pisa. I would go to any of these places in a heartbeat. I love them all, but a region that many tourists overlook is Emilia-Romagna. The region’s name might not be well known, but its exceptional agricultural, automotive and mechanical sectors are known the world over.
Much of the gastronomy we associate with Italian cuisine has its roots in Emilia-Romagna. The region is famous for Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), Modena balsamic vinegar, Parma ham (prosciutto), and various types of pasta, just to name a few items. If you are a wine lover, Sangiovese and Lambrusco are two of their well-known “vinos” for their unique taste and quality.
If you are a motor sport buff, Ducati motorcycles and luxury car manufacturers Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari all have their roots in the area. With this racing heritage, it’s only natural that two major circuits are located in the region. The motorcycle racing Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli is located near Misano Adriatico and is named after a local rider who died during a race in Malaysia in 2011. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari located in Imola, which has been used for Formula 1 Grand Prix races, is named after Ferrari’s founder and his son. The track is sadly the location where three time World Champion Ayrton Senna of Brazil died in 1994.
It is best to do these tours with Parma as your base in Emilia-Romagna, but I enjoy its capital and largest city, Bologna. The city is Italy’s seventh largest with about 400,000 people, and it is famous for its medieval towers, churches, colonnades and historical city centre. The University of Bologna, which was established in 1088 AD, is the oldest university in the Western world. I love exploring the narrow city centre streets and browsing the food markets and shops with fresh produce, cured meats, fish, breads, pastas and regional products. I’m no chef, but I imagine that it would be sensory overload for any culinary expert. The small restaurants with street front patios make some of the best dishes you will eat in all of Italy. You have to go there.
We depart in the morning from our hotel in central Bologna to a family cheese making operation that produces the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano Reggiano. The just over an hour drive brings us to a farm and factory near the town of Parma. They are members of the consortium that designates and controls authentic Parmigiano Reggiano production. Under law, the designation Parmigiano Reggiano is protected as a PDO (Protected Designations of Origin) and can be used only by certified producers from this area, so consumers know they have the real deal.
Around 1000 AD, monks reclaimed the marshy lands in the Po valley. The fertile land was plowed and worked by the monks using cows. With numerous cows, the monks had to invent a method to preserve the large quantities of high-quality milk they produced into a product that could be stored and used over time. The monks eventually developed a technique to produce a distinctive cheese in large boilers. The large round Parmigiano Reggiano is still made the same way today.
The Minardi family own and operate the Borgo del Gazzano farm factory that we are visiting. As an organic farm, they pay close attention to the entire local supply chain process to ensure the highest quality of ingredients. We arrive as they are reaching their final steps of the boiler process that was perfected by the monks long ago. Two men collect the curd from the boiler using muslin cloth and place it in large round molds. The cheese is left to set for a day or two then the mold will be removed to add a plastic wrap that has the imprint of the famous Parmigiano Reggiano stamp along with the date and the producer’s number. The mold is then reattached over the plastic wrap and tightened. The imprint from the wrap will solidify as a permanent mark on the rind over the next day. The wrap and mold are then removed and the cheese is placed in a rectangular vessel filled with a brine mixture for 20-25 days so that the cheese can absorb salt.
Finally, the cheese is placed on a shelf in the warehouse to age for 12 months. Prepare to be astounded to see row after row of these shelves that are over 20 cheeses high and at least 80 cheeses long per side. It feels like a library made of cheese! Do you hear a mechanical sound coming from the next aisle? It is a machine working its way up, down and across the shelves. Its job is to grab one heavy cheese off the shelf at a time, spin it around so it can brush off the excess bits, flip the cheese, then place it safely back on the shelf, before automatically moving on to the next one. I guess now we know where they get the parmesan cheese shavings for the cheese shakers we buy at our local grocery store.
We will step outside to the barn area to see the cows and dairy operation before moving to the tasting area and shop. Tasting the celebrated “fromaggio,” with its distinctive texture and sharp flavour, at the very place where it is produced is really something special. This is not to be mistaken with the cheese we often get at home, as outside of Europe, companies can only use the word “Parmesan” to describe their cheese. To get the real deal, you have to make sure that it is clearly sold as, or even better, see it stamped as Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parma Ham (Prosciutto)
Just 30 minutes from the Borgo del Gazzano is a producer that makes another iconic food. The Lanfranchi family are specialists in the making of a cured meat known the world over as Raw Parma Ham (Prosciutto Crudo di Parma). For 20 years, they have been selecting the finest raw materials and using their traditional methods and expertise to produce the finest and tastiest prosciutto, salamis, pancetta, culatello and coppa di parma. Like the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese producers, the Parma Ham producers are also part of a consortium, and as such, must adhere to high standards and follow precise rules of production.
We will get an introduction of the prosciutto making process. Our tour starts with the trimming of the excess fat and rind of the pork thigh to give the ham its rounded shape and to assist in the salting process. The rind is treated with wet salt while the lean parts are sprinkled with dry salt. During a three week period, the ham is salted twice and placed in walk-in freezers with different temperatures. During this period, it slowly absorbs salt, loses moisture, and loses about 4% of its weight.
In the next stage, the ham’s residual salt is removed and it is placed in a special room with controlled humidity and temperature for just over two months. While in this room, the salt penetrates even deeper and it is reduced by another 8-10%. We continue into a room with windows that are opened for the ham to dry over the next few months in natural process that will result in another weight loss of 8-10%.
The ham’s final move is to the cellar on the seventh month. In the cellar, important biochemical and enzymatic processes occur. Here it loses another 5% of weight but gains the distinct aroma and taste of the Param Ham.
At the end of the curing process, the ham is penetrated by a horse bone needle by experts who can verify its quality with a trained sense of smell. Finally, after a twelve month journey, the ham is inspected by the Parma Quality Institute and branded with the “5 pointed crown” as a guarantee to the consumer that the product is of the highest quality.
The tour gives us a great appreciation for the care that goes into making these products, and underscores why they are highly sought after. We move to the La Perla tasting room where we can try some of the local wines while enjoying lunch, which of course, includes pasta, cured meats, prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, bread and a dessert. It is always tough to get a group to leave because the Lafranchi family are great hosts who love to meet people from around the world. But we must leave, as one hour away, is a mecca for car enthusiasts.
As we arrive at Maranello, we are greeted by a traffic circle that has a familiar silver prancing horse in the middle. This is undeniably, the home of Ferrari. Founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 as Scuderia Ferrari, the company sponsored drivers and manufactured race cars before moving into production of street-legal vehicles as Ferrari S.p.A. in 1947.
As we arrive to the Museum, we see a F1 race car in what looks like scaffolding and a welcoming bright red arch. Ferrari is the most successful Formula 1 team in history and has millions of loyal and exuberant fans worldwide. The motorsports cars in the museum are dedicated to the 90 years of Ferrari racing heritage. The cars will take your breath away.
My favourite area of the museum is the Michael Schumacher exhibition dedicated to his 11 years of racing with Ferrari. The room has some of his F1 race cars on display in an awe-inspiring semi-circle with a video wall in the background playing highlights of his career. On the other side of the room is a lower wall dedicated to Ferarri champion drivers and an upper wall full of shiny trophies.
In addition to the racing automobiles, the museum also displays its most famous street cars through history, including the iconic Ferrari Testarossa. The Ferrari shop is full of items with the iconic item emblazoned on them, but like the high performance cars, they are pricey.
With your adrenalin pumping from being surrounded by automotive power, you will be ready to try a couple of unique experiences. If you are mechanically inclined, you will love the Pit Stop Experience, where they time you as you make a front tire change on a Formula 1 car. Those that “feel the need for speed” will drool at the sight of the unbelievable Scuderia Ferrari F1 simulators. After you climb into the pilot’s cockpit, you are given a brief explanation of how to use the paddles behind the steering wheel and the gear box. They can set up the simulator for regular driver or in a more advanced mode for “professionals.” You even get to choose one of the famous F1 tracks for your race experience. The simulator lets you feel the track surface including rubbing strips feel the breaking and throttle forces.
If you are interested, you can combine the museum ticket with a tour of the Ferrari track and factory. For the duration of the tour, you must remain on the company’s shuttle buses and no photos or video are allowed. The factory entrance has been kept the same as it was in 1947 and the track is where all of Ferrari’s competition and road cars have been tested since 1972.
Those that want to get behind the wheel can go to the nearby Autodromo di Modena race circuit and drive a Ferrari for 15 minutes or longer. The experience includes track information and safety protocols from a professional driver.
After the heart racing Ferrari experience, we make a short early evening drive to a Balsamic Vinegar producer or “Acetaia” that was founded in the 1800s. The Paltrinieri Acetaia, established in 1845, maintains the family tradition and replenishes over 1000 barrels of balsamic using the experience handed down generation after generation. Adhering to the strict regulations and using local ingredients from the Trebiano and Lambrusco vineyards, Guido Paltrinieri guides the production of the vinegar must.
The company harvests 160,000 kilograms of grapes on their 25 acre farm, which produces 15,000 litres of balsamic vinegar. We will visit the warehouse attic to see the medium sized barrels made from durmast, chestnut, mulberry, cherry, acacia, ash and precious juniper wood.
The flavour garnered from the barrels, along with the aging process, result in the unique scent and flavour of the balsamic. In the tasting room, we try a range of balsamic they produce, and it is amazing how varied the taste can be in terms of the sweet and sour tones. They also vary in density. The denser the vinegar, the more of a syrupy texture it has. Mind you, this is not the balsamic you find at your local grocery store. A high quality Modena balsamic in a 100 ml bottle, and aged up to 25 years, can cost hundreds of dollars. The company also produces balsamic based products like Balsamotto, Acet-Up, Dulcia and Saba which are great for use in cooking or as a condiment, including on ice cream!
One of my favourite meals in Italy is at the Acetaia Paltrinieri restaurant. After our balsamic tasting and tour, we head across the courtyard to the rustic farm house restaurant. Just before we arrive to the restaurant doors, we are greeted with a glass of Pignoletto sparkling wine and crumbled Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with DOP Modena Balsamic Vinegar. The balsamic and the cheese go so well together.
Once inside, we are greeted with bottles of Lambrusco wine on the table, which everyone is quick to spot and partake in. Soon, a plate of a local flatbread called “tigelle” similar to an English muffin, and served warm, arrives with a spread. They are so good!
I have had two different first courses, and I’m not sure which I love more. One is a creamy risotto made with “riserva” balsamic vinegar, and the other is a pasta called Strozzapreti or “choke the priest” pasta. The name always makes me laugh, but the pasta, which also contains balsamic, is absolutely fantastic.
The second course is a meat course which is served with vegetables or salad. During my previous visits, I’ve enjoyed stuffed roast pig, chicken with ham or Balsamotto roast beef, with each dish including balsamic as an ingredient. Even my ice cream dessert contains balsamic. After a glass of a special local walnut liqueur called “nocino” or a nice espresso, we are on our way back to Bologna. It will be a late return to our hotel in Bologna but I’m sure we will venture out to find a nice place in the historic city centre to have a glass of wine and to talk about our amazing day in Emilia-Romagna.
Explore Europe With Us
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Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.
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Alberta Opposition calling for Olymel Outbreak Inquiry
From the Alberta NDP
NDP DEMANDS PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO OLYMEL OUTBREAK, CALLS FOR PROTECTION FOR WORKERS, NOT CORPORATIONS
Alberta’s NDP is demanding an immediate public inquiry into the mishandling by both the UCP government and Olymel of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at a meat-processing plant in Red Deer, and is seeking a commitment from the Minister of Justice that he will not intervene with legislation to protect potentially negligent corporations from lawsuits launched by victims’ families.
As of Wednesday, at least three Olymel employees had died as a result of the outbreak, which began in November and has seen more than 500 cases of COVID-19 confirmed to date. The NDP has also learned that three employees are currently fighting for their lives in intensive care. The Government of Alberta ignored calls for the plant to be closed, even as cases skyrocketed.
“We need to get to the bottom of who is responsible for these senseless, tragic deaths,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “People with no choice but to continue working in unsafe conditions have gotten sick and died. We need to hold those responsible accountable and develop new practices to prevent tragedies like this in the future.”
During a town hall meeting Tuesday night, UCP Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu was working on legislation to eliminate liability in relation to COVID-19 illness and death for corporations and businesses
“This Government should focus on preventing workers from further injury and death, not covering up the negligence that’s already occurred around these tragedies,” Notley said. “We call on the UCP Government to reverse these plans.”
The NDP is also demanding an inquiry into the Olymel outbreak and the overall history with respect to worker safety in the meat-processing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Olymel outbreak is now the deadliest linked to a meat-processing plant in Alberta during the pandemic. The outbreak at High River’s Cargill plant last year saw two workers die and more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 confirmed — it remains the largest since in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Overall, while meat-packing plants have occurred in several other provinces, only in Alberta have people died, with the number currently standing at six,” Notley said.
The NDP is also supporting the call from the United Food and Commercial Workers that the Olymel plant not reopen as planned Thursday and remain closed until worker representatives are satisfied that enhanced health and safety protocols have been put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“We find ourselves in the same crisis as we were with Cargill,” said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray. “Albertans should remember that the UCP’s own Agriculture Minister lied to those workers and told them the plant was safe just days before the operator shut it down,”
MLA Gray previously called for a formal inquiry into the Cargill outbreak and another at the JBS plant in Brooks that saw more than 650 workers infected and one die. To date, the call for an inquiry has been ignored by the UCP.
“Clearly Jason Kenney and the UCP don’t care about the workers in these plants,” Gray added. “We know that a survey of Olymel workers found three quarters feel nervous or scared to return to work and do not trust the employer to keep them safe. As well, over half of the workers surveyed said they didn’t trust the UCP Government to keep them safe.
“How does this Premier possibly justify allowing this plant to reopen when he hasn’t done a thing to reassure these workers that they won’t become sick or potentially die?”
The NDP will also be drafting a letter to Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu that demands he rule out legislative protection for Olymel, Cargill and JBS. A class-action lawsuit has already been launched against Cargill.
“The UCP wants to let these massive, profitable corporations wash their hands of these horrific incidents and, meanwhile, grieving families of lost loved ones will see nothing but more pain and suffering,” Notley said. “This government has a long track record of backing wealthy CEOs and screwing over workers. Enough is enough.”
In the U.S., 16 states have brought in legislation or immunity provisions to protect businesses and corporations from liability related to the pandemic.
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My European Favourites – Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Alberta Opposition calling for Olymel Outbreak Inquiry
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