By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Meryl Streep was given a bouquet of flowers, a gift and a kiss at the Berlin film festival on Valentine's Day, and they weren't from her husband.

The 62-year-old actress was at the annual cinema showcase on Tuesday to receive a lifetime achievement Golden Bear.

At a packed press conference following a screening of her latest movie "The Iron Lady", Streep reflected on the price of fame and on how playing Margaret Thatcher in the biopic had changed her opinion of the former British Prime Minister.

At one point, a journalist climbed up on stage, presented Streep with a bunch of white flowers and gave her a kiss.

"How beautiful!" she said, adding later: "My husband didn't send me flowers, so thank God for Dieter!"

Another reporter gave her a Russian doll, each layer of which was painted to represent her in a different film role, including "The Iron Lady" and "The Devil Wears Prada".

Two days ago, the American won a best actress BAFTA award in London for "The Iron Lady" to add to the Golden Globe she received for the same role. She is a front-runner to scoop her third Oscar on February 26.

Streep described the awards season as an "out of body experience."

"It's very odd to be in the position where people say to you, 'Oh I think you're going to win something', or, 'Oh I don't think you have a chance this year.'

"And suddenly you feel like you're in a sporting event and you haven't signed up for it. You did some work in a film that you're proud of and you are hoping that people will go and see it, and suddenly you're doing calisthenics for Superbowl."

CHANGES OPINION OF THATCHER

The "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Sophie's Choice" star said she was surprised by what she discovered about Thatcher during the making of "The Iron Lady".

The film jumps between a young Thatcher rising through the ranks of British politics and a frail, elderly woman suffering dementia who looks back on her life with pride and regret.

"I learned a lot of things that surprised me, because I had made decisions about Margaret Thatcher since I was a young woman. I had a knee-jerk reaction to her as a liberal left-wing actress in America from New York.

"I thought she was a friend of (Ronald) Reagan -- bad. I thought she had frumpy clothes and bad hair. You know, this is the way women judge each other in the public realm."

However, the actress said she learned that Thatcher was not anti-abortion but pro-choice, did not dismantle Britain's National Health Service and warned the United States at an early stage about the threat of global warming.

Britain's first female prime minister was also undoubtedly a feminist who helped paved the way for more equal rights between sexes, Streep added.

"I think Margaret Thatcher would be dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of feminism, but she was a feminist whether she likes it or not. She opened doors for women."

Asked whether her success in Hollywood came at a price, Streep replied:

"There are five contemporary art museums in Berlin. I would love to go to a contemporary art museum. I won't go.

"It's hard, because I can look at something and there are five people in front looking at me. I'm not complaining, it's very good, but I miss a lot of art."

The Berlin festival, also know as the Berlinale, winds up with an awards ceremony on February 18.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Jill Serjeant)