Truffle Hunting Tour in Prague
When researching things to do in Prague, there were a lot of different options and tours offered – bike tours, food tours, walking tours. It started to all sort of blend together, and Prague Truffle Tour caught our eye as something unique that we wouldn’t be able to experience back home. Minh and I don’t know much about truffles, other than that we like to eat them, so, we were intrigued at what this tour had to offer.
Our tour started at the park at the base of Petřín Hill and consisted of a group of 9 people, where we met Petr and his adorably energetic truffle hunting dog, Nela. You can immediately tell she’s excited to start “hunting” for truffles, as she runs around the area with endless energy.
We made our way up the park and we learned of how Petr ended up becoming a truffle hunter and selecting Nela as his truffle hunting companion. Petr’s full-time profession and passion is in academics (science research), but, due to the lack of funding and pay, he needed to look for something else to supplement his income. He didn’t want to take up any ol’ regular part-time job that he had no interest in, and he somehow stumbled upon truffle hunting. The more he read and learned about it, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to apply his passion for science and make some extra money.
As he tells his story, you can get a real sense of how his background is in research. His explanation of the selection process of finding a dog which he goes into detail (needed to be 1 year old, female, easy to train, youthful temperament, etc). It took him about 6 months to find a suitable dog, in which he found Nela.
He went through some training exercises he used when training Nela, in which he uses K-9 techniques. Similar to how police dogs are trained to identify contraband and narcotics, the training is the same to train a dog to identify truffles! Petr explained he spent an intensive 3 months with a professional dog trainer to train Nela.
He did a few demonstrations of hiding a jar with a piece of cotton soaked with a specific truffle identifier smell (which smells really strong and a little bit like gasoline, but works very well for dogs apparently) in a gray container. After giving the command to Nela to search, she took off and correctly identified the container with the truffle smell. Once she properly put her paw down, he positively reinforced with some dog kibble. He did a few more demonstrations where we would distract Nela as he switched up the location of the container with the truffle smell. She would identify the correct one every time, and sometimes take off to the container before Petr could even run away from the container he put down.
We learned a little more about the truffle industry as a whole. Some interesting facts we learned during the tour:
- Black truffles are available in the summer, and White truffles in the winter.
- White truffles are the most expensive because they cannot be farmed and are only found in nature.
- Most truffle oils are artificial, as fresh truffles have a short freshness lifespan and are much milder in aroma.
- Dogs are the preferred “hunter” for truffles as they’re easy to transport and you can train them.
- Pigs are hardly used to hunt for truffles anymore because they’re not practical to care for (feeding, transport, need to have a farm) and they naturally hunt for truffles because they want to eat them. Because of this, they can cause damage to the truffle when digging in the ground, and you’ll have to stop the pig before it eats your profits. According to Petr, he knows of 2 farmers who have truffle hunting pigs, and each have lost a finger trying to stop the pig from eating the truffle!
- Truffle hunting is illegal in the Czech Republic, so Petr and Nela go on roadtrips to hunt in Italy, Croatia, and other parts of Europe
- Petr is the main truffle supplier to restaurants in Prague
- The truffle business is highly competitive, and there are specific territories that have been claimed by other hunters. It’s to the point where it’s basically a truffle mafia and they will go to extreme lengths like poisoning or harming any “trespasser’s” dogs!
Referring to that last point, it was pretty crazy to hear about the stories that Petr told us about the “truffle mafia,” which led him to figure out that it made more sense for him to be a middleman between truffle farmers and restaurants in Prague. He pays truffle farmers more than a restaurant supplier would, and then sells the truffles to restaurants cheaper than a restaurant supplier would. It’s a win-win. Nowadays, Petr and Nela spend more time doing tours than actual hunting. His tours came about when he would train Nela in the park, and people would continue to follow him and ask questions out of curiosity. He realized there were people other than himself interested, and so he put the tour together!
We stopped by a few places where Petr hid a few truffles in the park ahead of time, and Nela successfully found them all. We then hiked up to the top of the park where we had a beautiful panoramic view of Prague Old Town.
This was a fun part of the tour as he gave each of us a truffle to hide to see if Nela could find it. Minh was extra excited to hide it to see if she would find it. Petr mentioned that Nela is usually about 90% accurate, but a previous tour hid a decently sized truffle once, and Nela nor the group could ever find it again!
After being filled with lots of truffle knowledge, it was time for us to hike down to finish up our tour with a truffle pasta lunch!
Truffles themselves don’t have much taste, and it’s mainly the aroma that affects the dish. Therefore, truffles are best paired with creamy/oily dishes to better release the aroma.
Petr is very informative in his knowledge of truffle hunting and this tour is not like all the other cookie-cutter packaged tours you’ll find around Prague. If you’re looking for a break from all the tourist crowds and for something more unique – we’d highly recommend Prague Truffle Tour! It was a great experience and you don’t need to be a truffle enthusiast to take this tour, but, you probably will be one afterwards!
Thank you to our wonderful guide Petr for hosting us on this tour in exchange for this review. All posts and opinions are our own.