The digs at these hotels are every bit as strange as the dreams you'll have when you lay your head on their pillows. (Word to the wise: They can be costly to visit, but our slide show is free.)
Meet the giraffes
Without sacrificing its estate-in-the-country dignity—or all of it, anyway—Giraffe Manor in Langata, Kenya, is arranged so that roaming giraffes can poke their heads into any open window or doorway with impunity and lather guests with their sticky, prehensile tongues. Your guesthouse is their guesthouse, so the silly creatures pop up everywhere, including over the breakfast table, in the lobby, and through the curtains of the five guest rooms for adults. Regrettably, as of this writing, the U.S. government had issued a travel warning for Kenya. For the latest info, visit the State Department website. 011-254/20-890-948, off-hours: 011-254/20-891-078, giraffemanor.com.
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The open-sewer experience
Artist Andreas Strauss designed Das Park Hotel to be an elegant exercise in simplicity and recycling: It consists of three unadorned, 10-ton segments of drainage pipe, each 6.5 feet in diameter and barely long enough to accommodate a double bed. Strauss punched the pipes with skylights, added doors with electronic locks, and then laid the trio artfully in the grass by the Danube River, in Ottensheim, Austria. Amenities are skimpy, as you might expect: You get a lamp, a mattress, and a few sleeping bags.
Hang out like a Teamster
For savoring the windswept Dutch landscape, nothing will lift you higher than the Harbour Crane, which for almost 30 years toiled at unloading timber at Harlingen, a port city an hour outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Since 2003, the massive crane has housed a luxury hotel room for two, roughly 60 feet above the harbor docks. Don't expect to sleep in an oily industrial hutch—the hotel's lighting system is touch-screen operated, the chairs are Eames Lounges, and the spindle of structural steel around you has a certain sculptural elegance. But the big payoff: You and your guest can jump into the cockpit and seize the controls, swinging the 143,000-pound crane a full 360 degrees. 011-31/517-414-410, vuurtoren-harlingen.nl.
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Gone to the dogs
After years of selling dog sculptures that they chainsawed out of wood, Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin sank their considerable profits into constructing Dog Bark Park Inn, a two-story, beagle-shaped B&B in Cottonwood, Idaho. Guests enter the structure from the deck that lines one side of the pup's rib cage. The main quarters are in the belly of the beast; the sleeping loft is in the pooch's head. And, yes, pets are allowed. 208/962-3647, dogbarkparkinn.com,open April through October.
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A trailer with a view
Hotel Everland is a one-room portable inn created by Switzerland-based installation artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann. It's mobile, like a trailer home, but it's fancy, too, with pastel walls that swirl and swoop. The artists are moving the inn around Europe; through 2008, it will reside in Paris on the rooftop of the Palais de Tokyo museum, with its heart-swelling views of the Seine, 100 feet below, and the Eiffel Tower, in the near distance. Unfortunately, Hotel Everland becomes a contemporary art exhibit by day. So you can only stay for one night, and you have to be cleared out before the museum opens for business—or risk becoming part of the exhibit yourself. everland.ch, reservations online only.
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Take this hotel for a spin
Those of us who miss the Carter administration-era craze for revolving rooftop cocktail lounges will no doubt be pleased to learn that in certain parts of Turkey, it's still 1977. In sunny Antalya, Turkey's version of Miami Beach, you'll find the world's first hotel that has a rotating annex: the Marmara Antalya. Two dozen of the hotel's rooms are built atop a foundation that spins, completing a full rotation every seven hours; guests are rewarded with shifting views of the Mediterranean Sea. 011-90/242-249-3600, themarmarahotels.com.
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Hobbit habitats for humanity
If you queued up for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, you'd probably feel right at home in the Hobbit Motel, in Otorohanga, New Zealand. The motel's two hillside burrows are faithful replicas of the fictional hobbit dwellings—right down to the circular windows and doorways, red-and-beige walls, and camouflaged exteriors. The real-life rooms are scaled to human proportions, though, so actual hobbits might find them disagreeable.
The Hobbit Motel is only one part of Woodlyn Park, a bizarre collection of lodgings that includes a 1950s railway car, a dry-docked patrol boat, and a grounded airplane from the Vietnam War. As if that weren't eccentric enough, the complex caters to visitors of the nearby Waitomo Caves, where the star attraction is a colony of glowworms. 011-64/7-878-6666, woodlynpark.co.nz.
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Up a tree
Human beings spent millions of years evolving to the point where they wouldn't have to sleep in the trees. That job done, there's just one direction for them to go: back up. The owners of Out 'n' About Treesort & Treehouse Institute just outside of Cave Junction, Ore., fought nervous zoning authorities to permit the construction of their 18 unorthodox treehouses—some enclosed, some open to the bugs, and some perched in oaks and Douglas firs more than 35 feet above the ground. The Swiss Family unit, for instance, is connected by a suspension bridge to a special kids' area. The Treeloon unit looks like an Old West saloon, complete with swinging doors. And the Cavaltree, a duplex in the branches, feels like a pioneer fort.
Most of the rooms are equipped with modern conveniences, like sinks and refrigerators, but bathrooms are in a cabin on the ground. Given all the spiral staircases at the 36-acre complex, you have to pity the chambermaids. 541/592-2208, treehouses.com.
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Pioneer wagons get an upgrade
In Christchurch, New Zealand, the two-year-old Wagon Stays company has come up with a marketing slogan for its tricked-out, ecofriendly, mock Conestogas: "Where luxury meets history." The settlers of New Zealand would have considered themselves lucky to bunk down in these bad boys, which feature queen-size beds, computer-controlled showers, flush toilets, fully equipped kitchens, and satellite TV. The carriages also have glass doors that open onto balconies, which are perfect for kicking back with a pint of ale after a long day of going absolutely nowhere. 011-64/3-322-8277, wagonstays.co.nz.
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