The man behind the crystals. Forgotten Romania II

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In the previous post I’ve started to tell about the trip I took on May to Ocna de Fier, together with my brother, sister-in-law and the kids. Driving there was really pleasant as it took us through the fields of my old Banat, the region where I was born and raised, into the hills of Bocșa. While a student in the University, whenever I travelled in that area I got excited as soon as I saw the wavy landscape, the forests, the greener shades as we were approaching the mountains.

Now the mountains weren’t out target, but this hidden village I’ve always known of, but never really sure how far or close it was from Bocșa. I had no idea Ocna de Fier was really just 15 minutes driving. I say 15 as the road is in a quite bad shape and you wouldn’t want to speed up in the forest anyway.

 

Getting close, you first reach the old iron mine, a gloomy site, you’d expect miners ghosts to flicker in the shadow of the deserted buildings. Then the countryside houses, aligned on the valley, actually look like mushrooms growing up a hidden path in the forest. You can see people aren’t very rich here, but there is something homely in the simplicity of the landscape, something welcoming, despite the silence that only the fowls in the yard are braking with their „cock-a-doodle-doo”, softer now just before the rain would start.

We drove up the road and I was a bit nervous we might miss the house with the crystal exhibition. On the other hand, I guess I was just excited, as I knew we could always stop, knock at somebody’s door and ask. Didn’t have to do that, as we stopped and asked a man on the street and he gave us precise directions: “Just drive forward and you’ll see it on the left side, before the Village Hall”. Easy, isn’t it?

 

We were there in about two minutes. Couple of days before my mum tried to ring and let the owner of the museum know that we were going. Constantin Gruescu exhibits his collection of stones in his own house. Well, his phone line was disturbed and we couldn’t reach him, but we were lucky that day, he was at home. And his house is always open to guests.

Finally meeting mister Gruescu face to face I could but only admire his energy, his open heart and his dedication. Growing up in a family with a mining tradition, he turned out to be passionate about rocks and minerals since childhood. I don’t know if he was really into mining at all, all I know is that he never worked in a mine, although he didn’t get a higher education either. In the times when he grew up it wasn’t easy for a young man to study. Still, he went to primary and secondary school for 7 years and then got professional qualification, three different courses, started to work at the age of 19, in 1943, as part of the quality control team in the Steel Factories in Reșița.This continued to be his job until 1977 (the year I was born!), when he got pensioned.

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 Mister Gruescu opened this museum in 1945, when he was only 21, and dedicated his life to studying the minerals, collecting them and showing them to everybody who comes to visit. The communist times came and passed, without causing much harm, his collection wasn’t confiscated or “donated” to the state institutions, although over the years he donated for    real many of the rocks and crystals to be hosted by bigger museums. Still, there is nothing    like just driving there, shaking his hand and listening to him for over an hour while you look    at the violet, golden or milky white facets, giving a special glow, of the crystals that seem to    have grown in that very room.

   On the right side, as you enter, you’ll find a big rock which is made of three generation of crystals, each grown in a different age, each by a new process of crystallization. You can see the different groups by their size and orientation. Mister Gruescu encouraged us to hold our hands palms down, above the big rock, and feel its energy. He said each person gets a different feeling, for some it’s a cold vibe, for others is warm, some feel tingling in their toes and arms or whole body, some become agitated. Well, the energy of the crystals is a much argued esoteric belief, although they have been used for centuries in alternative healing techniques. There is some scientific truth, as to crystals vibrating to the pitch that is emitted by a source close to them. For the sceptical, they at least give a quite beautiful sight.

 

The owner of this wonder room of minerals doesn’t practice crystal healing himself, although he could easily do. The massive rocks that he has seem to be taken out of an extra-terrestrial landscape. Some of them really reminded me of Stargate SG-1, to which I’m a forever fan. Some of them just sparkle imagination, some are poisonous, like the realgar rock, which contains arsenic and it’s thought to have been used by the cardinals in the old times whenever they needed to… send somebody to heaven (or hell, who could really tell?).

One of the stories he’s told us stands out for its ironic twist. During the former dictator’s rule, each County Council would send a gift to the Ceaușescu couple on a certain occasion (probably one of the many they were celebrated as the heroes of the Romanian people…). Mister Gruescu has been asked to help with two crystals for that year, which would have been gracefully presented, as gifts from Caraș-Severin. He donated a violet crystal for the dictator and a pink quartz for his wife. A month after the celebration, the quartz came back. The County Council official explained they couldn’t finish the case for it in time, so they didn’t want to make fools of themselves and decided to send something else. Years later, a visitor who had a position as a staff serving the dictators at that particular event said the truth was somewhat different. Ceaușescu wasn’t impressed or bothered by the crystal gift, he was merely indifferent as he passed through the room and was presented with what every county sent him. His wife, however, took a look at the quartz and overreacted, shouting “What’s this crap? Take this stupid thing out of my sight, I don’t want to see it!”  It is thought that she couldn’t stand the good energy of the crystal, which came into conflict with her really murky vibration, one of an egotistical woman driven only by her thirst for power.

 

The truth is that listening to Mr. Gruescu, now 90, can make you feel like you are in crystal heaven. His passion, his generosity and his open heart are the things that make this museum live. There is no fee to visit it. Everybody is welcome and everybody can make a small donation. When we left some money, he said it’s a bit much and asked us to take some crystals he had for sale, take them as gifts. Going there I had in my mind to record him talking about the museum and his experience with collecting and studying the minerals over years. He even discovered a formation unique in the world, called Macla Gruescu, and which looks like a cross, never found anywhere else before or after. But his modesty came first: I could see him a bit embarrassed with talking in front of my laptop, so just gave up the whole idea. Instead, I thought of writing this post in English and posting the photos we’ve taken there.

 

Funny enough, on the way back home both me and my sister-in-law fell in the line of duty. I got so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open while my brother was talking to me, and she just fell asleep in the back and we had to leave her there while stopping at my parents to leave the kids. Maybe it was just because of the rain. Or maybe the power of crystals completely knocked us down, taking our minds to the higher dimension of dreamless sleep.

The happy bunch

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Next to one of my favourite crystals colony

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Three generations 

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Minerals party 

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Note: None of the photos can be reposted without written permission.

@Catalina George

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