.... Okay guys it has been a while, but I feel I owe the forum (and future readers) a closing of this thread and the "resolve" of my issues.
This is what happened:
The mechanic returned the car to me after he tried to identify the source of the problem downshifting from 3rd to 2nd. He said, he couldn't find the problem and therefore split the tranny again. He said he did something to 2nd gear or Syncro, but didn't know if that was the cause of my issue. I asked if he also addressed the first gear issue - he plainly said no.
- The clunking is 95% gone,
- Strangely enough the first gear grind is fully solved - despite the fact that he didn't do anything to address the grinding issue / no work on first gear. I can always shift up into first from neutral, no matter if the car is cold or hot - NO GRIND, ever.
... after this whole discussion here, you all must agree that this is somewhat of a miracle. I guess a good miracle for me.
I do have my own thoughts about what he did to the tranny, but this is speculation I shouldn't share here.
I am a happy driver now - all I needed to do was wiping off the greasy fingerprints on my fenders and then hit the road !
Thank you all again for your interest and sharing!